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DUKE UNIVERSITY 



LIBRARY 



The Glenn Negley Collection 
of Utopian Literature 



* • 

^^Z" //-= ^^. 



TWELVE TALES 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 

AN AFRICAN MILLIONAIRE. 

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R0S8LYN LODGE, 
Ay^gUAftY MILITARY H©»PITAL, 

TWELVE TALES 

WITH A HEADPIECE, A TAILPIECE, 
AND AN INTERMEZZO: 
BEING SELECT STORIES 

BY GRANT ALLEN 

Chosen and Arranged by the Author 



I 



LONDON 

GRANT RICHARDS 

HENRIETTA STREET 

1899 



Edinburgh : T. and A. Constable, Printers to Her Majesty 






INTRODUCTION 

The existence of this volume is due, not to my oivn initiative, hit 
to that of my enterprising kinsman and publisher, Mr. Grant 
Richards. He it was who first suggested to me the idea that it 
might be ivorth while to collect in one volume such of my scattered 
shoH stories as I Judged to possess most permanent value. In 
order for tis to carry out his plan, however, it became necessary 
to obtain the friendly co-operation of Messrs. Chatto and 
Windus, to whom belong the copyrights of my three previous 
volumes of Collected Tales, published respectively under the titles 
of Strange Stories, The Beckoning Hand, and Ivan Great's 
Masterpiece, soine pieces from each of which series I desired to 
incbide in the present selection. Fortunately, Messrs. Chatto 
and Windus fell in with our scheme with that kindness which 
I have learned to expect from them in all their dealings ; and an 
arrangement was thus effected by which I am enabled to present 
, here certain stories from their three vohimes. Together with 
these I have arranged an equal number of tales from other sources 
—most of which have hitherto appeared in periodicals only, while 
one is entirely new, never having been before printed. 

I may perhaps be permitted, without blame, to seize the 
occasion of this selected edition in order to offer a few biblio- 
graphical remarks on the origin and inception of my short stories. 
For many years after I took to the trade of author, I confined my 
writings to scientific or quasi-scieiitific subjects, having indeed 
little or no idea that I possessed in the germ the faculty of story- 
telling. But on one occasion, about the year 1880 {f I recollect 
a2 V 



INTRODUCTION 

aright), wishing to contribute an article to Belgravia on the im- 
probability of a man's being able to recognise a ghost as such, 
even if he saw one, and the impossibility of his being able to apply 
any test of credibility to an apparitions statements, I ventured for 
the better development of my subject to throw the argumeiit into 
the form of a narrative. I did 7iot regard this narrative as a 
story : I looked upon it merely as a convenient method of dis- 
playijig a scientific truth. However, the gods and Mr. Chatto 
thought otherwise. For, a month or two later, Mr. Chatto wrote 
to ask me if I could supply Belgravia with ' another story.' Not 
a little surprised at this request, I sat dotvn, like an obedient 
workman, and tried to write one at my employer's bidding. I dis- 
trusted my oivn ability to do so, it is true : but Mr. Chatto, / 
thought, being a dealer in the article, must kfio?v better than I ; 
and I was far too poor a craftsman at that time to refuse any 
reasonable offer of employment. So I did my best, crassa 
Minerva. To my great astonishment, my second story was 
accepted and printed like my first : the C7irious in such matters 
{if there be any) will find them both in the volume entitled 
Strange Stories (published by Messrs. Chatto and Windus) 
under the headings of ' Our Scientific Observations on a Ghost,' 
and ' My New Year's Eve among the Mummies.' 

From that day forward for sotne years I continued at Mr. 
Chatto's request to supply short stories from time to time to 
Belgravia, a magazine ivhich he then edited. But I did not 
regard these my tentative tales in any serious light : and, fearing 
that they might stand in the way of such little scientific reputation 
as I possessed, I published them all tmder the prudent pseudonym 
of J. Arbuthnot Wilson. / do not know that I should have 
got much further on the downward path which leads to fiction, 
had it not beeyi for the interventiofi of my good friend the late 
Mr. James Payn. When he undertook the editorship of the 
Cornhill, he detennined at first to turn it into a magazine of 
stories only, and began to look about him for fresh blood to press 
into the service. Among the writers he theti secured (/ seem 
vi 



INTRODUCTION 

to recollect) were Dr. Conan Doyle and Mr. Stanley Weyman. 
Now, under Mr. Leslie Stephen's editorship, I had been 
accustomed to contribute to the Cornhill occasional papers on 
scientific subjects : and one morning, by an odd coincidence, 
I received two notes simultaneously from the new editor. The 
Jirst of them was addressed to me by my real name ; in it, Mr. 
Payn courteously but briefly informed me that he returned one 
such scientific article which I had sent for his consideration, as he 
had determined in future to exclude everything but fiction from 
the viagazine — a decision which he afterwards saw reason to 
rescind. The second letter, forwarded through Messrs. Chatto 
and Windus, tvas addressed to me under my assumed name of 
J. Arbuthnot Wilson, and begged that unknotv7i person to 
submit to Mr. Payn a few stories ' like your admirable Mr. 
Chung.' Now, this Mr. Chung was a tale of a Chinese 
attache 171 England, who fell in love with an English girl: I had 
first printed it, like the others of that date, in the pages of 
Belgravia. (hater on, it 7vas included ?h the volume of Strange 
Stories, where any hypothetical explorer may still find it.) Till 
that moment, I had 7iever regarded my excursio7is i7ito fictio7i m 
a7iy serious light, setting dorv7i Mr. Chatto's liking for the7n to 
that ge7itle7nans amiability, or else to his 7vell-k7i07vn scientific 
penchant. But 7vhe7i a 7iovelist like Mr. James Payn spoke 
well of my woi'k — nay, more ; desired to secure it for his practi- 
cally 7ieiv 7nagazine — / began to think there 7night reallij be some- 
thi7ig 171 my stories tvorthfollo7ving 7ip by a 7nore serious effort. 

Thus e7icouraged, I lau7iched out 2ipo7i /vhat I vetdure to think 
was the Jirst voyage ever 7nade in our tune into the Romance of 
the Clash of Races — si7ice so 7nuch exploited. 1 7vrote two short 
stories, ' The Revere7id Joh7i Creedy ' and ' The Curate of 
Chur/iside,' both of which I se7it to Mr. Payn, i7i response to his 
invitation. He ?vas ki7id enough to like them, a7id they were duly 
published in the Cornhill. At the time, their reception was 
disappointi7ig : but gradually, si7ice the7i, I have lear7ied fro7n 
incide7ital re7narks that many people read the7n and re7ne7nbered 

vii 



INTRODUCTION 

them ; indeed, I have reason to think that these first serious 
ejforts of mine at telling a story rvere among my most successful 
attempts at the art of fiction. Once launched as a professional 
story-teller by this fortuitous combination of circumstances, I 
cojitinued at the trade, and wrote a number of tales for the 
Cornhill and other magazines, up till the year 1884, when I 
collected a few of them into a volume of Strange Stories, tinder 
my own name, for the first time casting off the veil of a7i07iymity 
or the cloak of a pseudonym. In the same year I also began 
my career as a novelist properly so called, by produciTig my first 
long 7iovel, Philistia. 

From that dale forward, I have gone on writing a great many 
stories, long and short, whose name is Legion. Out of the whole 
number of shorter ones, I now select the present set, as illustrating 
best in different keys the vaiioiis types of tale to ivhich I have 
devoted myself 

Four of these pieces have already appeared as reprints in the 
volume entitled Strange Stories — namely, ^ The Reverend John 
Greedy,' from the Cornhill ; ' The Child of the Phalanstery,' from 
Belgravia ; and ' The Curate of Churnside ' and ' The Back- 
slider,' both from the Cornhill. One, ' John Cann's Treasure,' 
also from the Cornhill, has been reprinted in the volume called 
The Beckoning Hand. Two more have been included in the 
collection entitled Ivan Greet's Masterpiece : namely, ' Ivan 
Greet' s Masterpiece ' itself, originally issued as a Christmas 
number of the Graphic; and ' The Abbe's Repcjitance,' which 
first saw the light in the Contemporary Review. The remainder 
have never appeared before, except in periodicals. The Head- 
piece, ' A Coifidential Communication,' came out in the Sketch. 
So did ' Frasine's First Communion.' ' Wolverden Tower' 
formed a Christmas number of the Illustrated London News. 
' Janet's Nemesis ' tvas contributed to the Pall Mall Magazine. 
The Interviezzo, ' Langalula,' is from the Speaker, a* is also 
the Tailpiece, 'A Matter of Standpoint.' ' Cecca's Lover' 
made his original bofv in Longman's Magazine. Finally, ' The 
viii 



INTRODUCTION 

Churchwarden s Brother' is entirely new, never having appeared 
in public before on this or any other stage. I have to thank the 
editors and proprietors of the various periodicals above enu- 
merated for their courteous permission to present afresh the 
contributioTts to their respective pages. 

I set forth this little Collection of Tales in all humility, and 
with no small diffidence, hi an age so prolific in high genius as 
our 07vn, I know how hard it is for mere modest industry to catch 
the ear of a too pampered public. I shall be amply content if 
our masters permit me to pick up the crumbs that fall from the 
table of the Hardy s, the Kiplings, the Merediths, and the Wellses. 

G.A. 



CONTENTS 

INTRODUCTION, 

HEADPIECE : a confidential communication, 

I, THE REVEREND JOHN CREEDY, 

II. frasine's first communion, 

III. the child of the phalanstery 

IV. THE abba's repentance, 
V. WOLVERDEN TOWER, 

VI. Janet's nemesis, 
INTERMEZZO : langalula, . 

VII. THE curate op CHURNSIDE, 

VIII. cecca's lover, . 

IX. THE BACKSLIDER, 

X. JOHN CANn's TREASURE, 

XI. IVAN GREET 's MASTERPIECE, 

XII. THE churchwarden's BROTHER, 

TAILPIECE : a matter op standpoint, 



PAGE 
V 

3 
11 
33 
45 
67 
91 
129 

153 
161 
197 
215 
245 
285 
327 

347 



HEADPIECE 
A CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION 



A CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION 

Ah, he was a mean-spirited beggar, that fellow Sibthorpe ! 
As mean-spirited a beggar as ever / come across. Yes, 
that's who I mean ; that 's him ; the fellow as was murdered. 
I s'pose you 'd call it murdered, now I come to think of it. 
But, Lord, he was such a mean-spirited chap, he wouldn't be 
enough to ang a dog for ! 

' Charitable,' eh .? 'A distinguished philanthropist ! ' 
Well, I can't say as / ever thought much of his philanthropy. 
He was always down on them as tries to earn a honest livin' 
tramping about the country. Know how he was murdered } 
Well, yes, I should think I did! I'm just about the fust 
livin' authority in England on that there subjeck. 

Well, come to that, I don't mind if I do tell you. You 're 
a straight sort of chap, you are. You're one of these 'ere 
politicals. I ain't afraid o' trustin' you. You 're not one of 
them as 'ud peach on a pal to 'andle a reward o' fifty 
guineas. And it 's a rum story too. But mind, I tell you 
what I tell you in confidence. There's not another chap 
in all this prison I 'd tell as much to. 

I'd always knowed 'im, since I was no bigger nor that. 
Old fool he was too ; down on public-'ouses an' races an' 
such, an' always ready to subscribe to anything for the 
elevation of the people. People don't want to be elevated, 
says I ; silly pack o' modern new-fangled rubbish. I sticks 
to the public-'ouses. 

3 



A CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION 

Well, we was dead-beat that day. Liz an' me had 
tramped along all the way from Aldershot. Last we come 
to the black lane by the pine-trees after you 've crossed the 
heath. Loneliest spot just there that I know in England. 
The Gibbet Til's to the right, where the men was hung in 
chains ; and the copse is to the left, where we 'ad that little 
brush one time with the keepers. Liz sat down on the 
heather — she was dead-beat, she was — behind a clump o' fuzz. 
An' I lay down beside 'er. 

She was a good 'un, Liz. She followed me down through 
thick and thin like a good 'un. No bloomin' nonsense about 
Liz, I can tell you. I always liked 'er. And though I did 
get into a row with her that mornin' afore she died, and 
kick 'er about the ribs a bit — but, there, I 'm a-digressin', as 
the parson put it ; and the jury brought it in ' Death by 
misadventure.' That was a narrow squeak that time. I 
didn't think I 'd swing for 'ei', 'cause she 'it me fust ; 
but I did think they 'd 'a' brought it in somethin' like 
manslaughter. 

However, as I say, I 'm a-digressin' from the story. It 
was like this with old Sibthorpe. We was a-lyin' under the 
gorse bushes, wonderin' to ourselves 'ow we 'd raise the wind 
for a drink — for we was both of us just about as dry as they 
make 'em — when suddenly round the corner, with his 'at in 
his 'and, and his white 'air a-blowin' round his 'ead, like an 
old fool as he was, who should come but the doctor. Liz 
looks at me, and I looks at Liz. 

'It's that bloomin' old idjit. Dr. Sibthorpe,' says she. 
' He give me a week once.' 

I 'ad my knife in my 'and. I looks at it, like this : then 
I looks up at Liz. She laughs and nods at me. 'E couldn't 
see neither of us behind the bush of fuzz. ' Arst 'im fust,' 

says Liz, low; 'an' then, if he don't fork out ' She 

drawed her finger so, right across her throat, an' smiles. Oh, 
she tvas a good 'un ! 
4 



A CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION 

Well, up I goes an' begins, reglar asker's style. 'You 
ain't got a copper about you, sir/ says I, whinin' like, ' as you 
could give a pore man as has tramped, without a bit or a 
sup, all the way from Aldershot ? ' 

'E looks at me an' smiles — the mean old hypocrite ! ' I 
never give to tramps,' says 'e. Then 'e looks at me agin. 
' I know you,' says 'e. 'You've been up afore me often.' 

' An' I knows you,' says I, drawin' the knife ; ' an' I knows 
where you keeps your money. An' I ain't a-goin' to be up 
afore you agin, not if / knows it.' An', with that, I rushes 
up, an' just goes at him blind with it. 

Well, he fought like a good 'un for his life, that he did. 
You wouldn't 'a' thought the old fool had so much fight left 
in him. But Liz stuck to me like a brick, an' we got him 
down at last, an' I gave him one or two about the 'ead as 
quieted him. It was mostly kickin' — no blood to speak of. 
Then we dragged him aside among the heather, and covered 
him up a little bit, an' made all tidy on the road where 
we 'd stuck him. 

' Take his watch, Liz,' says I. 

Well, would you believe it ? He was a magistrate for the 
county, and lived in the 'All, an' was 'eld the richest gentle- 
man for ten mile about ; but when Liz fished out his watch, 
what sort do you think it was } I give you my word for it, a 
common Waterbury ! 

' You put that back, Liz,' says I. ' Put that back in the 
old fool's pocket. Don't go carryin' it about to incriminate 
yourself, free, gratis, for nothin',' says I; 'it ain't worth 
sixpence.' 

' 'Ave you his purse .'' ' says she. 

'Yes, I 'ave,' says I. 'An' when we gets round the 
corner, we'll see what's in it.' 

Well, so we did ; an', would you believe it, agin, when we 
come to look, there was two ha'penny stamps and a lock 
of a child's 'air ; and, s'elp me taters, that 's all that was in it ! 

5 



A CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION 

' It ain't right,' says I, ' for people to go about takin' in 
other people with regard to their wealth,' says I. ^'Ere's 
this blooniin' old fool 'as misled us into s'posing he was the 
richest man in all the county, and not a penny in his purse ! 
It's downright dishonest.' 

Liz snatches it from me, an' turns it inside out. But it 
worn't no good. Not another thing in it ! 

Well, she looks at me, an' I looks at her. ' You fool,' says 
she, ' to get us both into a blindfold scrape like this, without 
knowin' whether or not he 'd got the money about him ! I 
guess we '11 both swing for it.' 

' You told me to,' says I. 

'^ That's a lie,' says she. Liz was always free-spoken. 

I took her by the throat. 'Young woman,' says I, 'you 
keep a civil tongue in your 'ead,' says I, 'or, by George, 
you '11 follow him ! ' 

Then we looks at one another agin ; and the humour of it 
comes over us — I was always one as 'ad a sense of humour — 
an' we busts out laughin'. 

' Sold ! ' says I. 

' Sold ! ' says Liz, half cry in'. 

An' we both sat down, an' looked agin at one another 
like a pair of born idjits. 

Then it come over us gradually what a pack o' fools that 
there man had made of us. The longer I thought of it, the 
angrier it made me. The mean-spirited old blackguard ! 
To be walking around the roads without a penny upon 
him ! 

' You go back, Liz,' says I, ' an' put that purse where we 
found it, in his weskit pocket.' ^ 

Liz looked at me an' crouched. ' I daren't,' says she, 
cowerin'. She was beginning to get frightened. 

I took her by the 'air. ' By George ! ' says I, ' if you 
don't ' An' she saw I meant it. 

Well, back she crawled, rather than walked, all shiverin' ; 
6 



A CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION 

an', as for me, I set there on the heather an' watched her. 
By an' by, she crawled round again. ' Done it ? ' says I. 
An' Liz, lookin' white as a sheet, says, ' Yes^ I done it.' 

' I wasn't goin' to carry that about with me,' says I, ' for 
the coppers to cop me. Now they '11 put it in the papers : 
" Deceased's watch and purse were found on him untouched, 
so that robbery was clearly not the motive of the crime." 
Git up, Liz, you fool, an' come along on with me.' 

Up she got, an' come along. We crept down the valley, 
all tired as we was, without a sup to drink ; an' we reached 
the high-road, all in among the bracken, an' we walked 
together as far as Godalming. That was all. The p'lice 
set it down to revenge, an' suspected the farmers. But, 
ever since then, every time I remember it, it makes me 'ot 
with rage to think a man o' property like him should go 
walking the roads, takin' other people in, without a farden 
in his pocket. It was the biggest disappointment ever / 
had in my life. To think I might 'a' swung for an old fool 
like that ! A great philanthropist, indeed ! Why, he 'd 
ought to 'a' been ashamed o' himself. Not one blessed 
farden ! I tell you, it always makes me 'ot to think o' it. 



I 
THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 



'On Sunday next, the 14th inst., the Reverend John Creedy, 
B.A., of Magdalen College, Oxford, will preach in Walton 
Magna Church on behalf of the Gold Coast Mission.' Not 
a very startling announcement that ; and yet, simple as it 
looks, it stirred Ethel Berry's soul to its inmost depths. 
For Ethel had been brought up by her Aunt Emily to look 
upon foreign missions as the one thing on earth worth living 
for and thinking about ; and the Reverend John Creedy, B. A., 
had a missionary history of his own, strange enough even in 
these strange days of queer juxtapositions between utter 
savagery and advanced civilisation. 

' Only think,' she said to her aunt, as they read the 
placard on the schoolhouse board, '^ he 's a real African 
negro, the vicar says, taken from a slaver on the Gold 
Coast when he was a child, and brought to England to be 
educated. He 's been to Oxford and got a degree ; and 
now he's going out again to Africa to convert his own 
people. And he 's coming down to the vicar's to stay on 
Wednesday.' 

'It's my behef,' said old Uncle James, Aunt Emily's 
brother, the superannuated skipper, ' that he 'd much better 
stop in England for ever. I 've been a good bit on the 
Coast myself in my time, after palm oil and such, and my 
opinion is that a nigger's a nigger anywhere, but he 's a sight 

11 



THE REVEREND JOHN CREEDY 

'less of a nigger in England than out yonder in Africa. 
Take him to England^ and you make a gentleman of hira : 
send him home again, and the nigger comes out at once in 
spite of you.' 

'Oh, James/ Aunt Emily put in, 'how can you talk such 
unchristianlike talk, setting yourself up against missions, 
when we know that all the nations of the earth are made of 
one blood .'' ' 

' I 've always lived a Christian life myself, Emily,' answered 
Uncle James^ ' though I have cruised a good bit on the 
Coast, too, which is against it, certainly ; but I take it a 
nigger's a nigger w^hatever you do with him. The Ethiopian 
cannot change his skin, the Scripture says, nor the leopard 
his spots, and a nigger he '11 be to the end of his days ; you 
mark my words, Emily.' 

On Wednesday, in due course, the Reverend John Creedy 
arrived at the vicarage, and much curiosity there was 
throughout the village of Walton Magna that week to see 
this curious new thing — a coal-black parson. Next day, 
Thursday, an almost equally unusual event occurred to Ethel 
Berry; for, to her great surprise, she got a little note in the 
morning inviting her up to a tennis-party at the vicarage 
the same afternoon. Now, though the vicar called on Aunt 
Emily often enough, and accepted her help readily for 
school feasts and other village festivities of the milder sort, 
the Berrys were hardly up to that level of society which is 
commonly invited to the parson's lawn tennis parties. And 
the reason why Ethel was asked on this pai'ticular Thursday 
must be traced to a certain pious conspiracy between the 
vicar and the secretary of the Gold Coast Evangelistic 
Society. When those two eminent missionary advocates 
had met a fortnight before at Exeter Hall, the secretary 
had represented to the vicar the desirability of young John 
Creedy's taking to himself an English wife before his de- 
parture. ' It will steady him, and keep him right on the 
12 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

Coast/ he said, 'and it will give him importance in the eyes 
of the natives as well.' Whereto the vicar responded that 
he knew exactly the right girl to suit the place in his own 
parish, and that by a providential conjunction she already 
took a deep interest in foreign missions. So these two 
good men conspired in all innocence of heart to sell poor 
Ethel into African slavery ; and the vicar had asked John 
Creedy down to Walton Magna on purpose to meet hei*. 

That afternoon Ethel put on her pretty sateen and her 
witching little white hat, with two natural dog-roses pinned 
on one side, and went pleased and proud up to the vicarage. 
The Reverend John Creedy was there, not in full clerical 
costume, but arrayed in tennis flannels, with only a loose 
white tie beneath his flap collar to mark his newly acquired 
spiritual dignity. He was a comely-looking negro enough, 
full-blooded, but not too broad-faced nor painfully African 
in type ; and when he was playing tennis his athletic quick 
limbs and his really handsome build took away greatly from 
the general impression of an inferior race. His voice was of 
the ordinary Oxford type, open, pleasant, and refined, with a 
certain easy-going air of natural gentility, hai'dly marred by 
just the faintest tinge of the thick negro blur in the broad 
vowels. When he talked to Ethel — and the vicar's wife 
took good care that they should talk together a great deal — 
his conversation was of a sort that she seldom heard at Wal- 
ton Magna. It was full of London and Oxford ; of boat-races 
at Mey and cricket matches at Lord's ; of people and books 
whose very names Ethel had never heard — one of them was 
a Mr. Mill, she thought, and another a Mr. Aristotle, — but 
which she felt vaguely to be one step higher in the intel- 
lectual scale than her own level. Then his friends, to whom 
he alluded casually, not like one who airs his grand acquaint- 
ances, were such very distinguished people. There was a 
real live lord, apparently, at the same college with him, and 
he spoke of a young baronet whose estate lay close by as 

13 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

plain ' Harrington of Christchurch/ without any ' Sir Arthur ' 
— a thing which even the vicar himself would hardly have 
ventured to do. She knew that he was learned too ; as a 
matter of fact, he had taken a fair second class in Greats at 
Oxford ; and he could talk delightfully of poetry and novels. 
To say the truth, John Creedy, in spite of his black face, 
dazzled poor Ethel, for he was more of a scholar and a gentle- 
man than anybody with whom she had ever before had the 
chance of conversing on equal terms. 

When Ethel turned the course of talk to Africa, the young 
parson was equally eloquent and fascinating. He didn't 
care about leaving England for many reasons, but he would 
be glad to do something for his poor brethren. He was 
enthusiastic about missions ; that was a common interest ; 
and he was so anxious to raise and improve the condition of 
his fellow-negroes, that Ethel couldn't help feeling what a 
noble thing it was of him thus to sacrifice himself, cultivated 
gentleman as he was, in an African jungle, for his heathen 
countrymen. Altogether, she went home from the tennis- 
court that afternoon thoroughly overcome by John Creedy's 
personality. She didn't for a moment think of falling in 
love with him — a certain indescribable race-instinct set up 
an impassable barrier against that — but she admired him and 
was interested in him in a way that she had never yet felt 
with any other man. 

As for John Creedy, he was naturally charmed with Ethel. 
In the first place, he would have been charmed with any 
English girl who took so much interest in himself and his 
plans ; for, like all negroes, he was frankly egotistical, and 
delighted to find a white lady who seemed to treat him as a 
superior being. But, in the second place, Ethel was really a 
charming, simple English village lassie, with sweet little 
manners and a delicious blush, who might have impressed a 
far less susceptible man than the young negro parson. So, 
whatever Ethel felt, John Creedy felt himself truly in love. 
14 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

Andj after all, John Greedy was in all essentials an educated 
English gentleman^ with the same chivalrous feelings towards 
a pretty and attractive girl that every English gentleman 
ought to have. 

On Sunday morning Aunt Emily and Ethel went to the 
parish church, and the Reverend John Greedy preached the 
expected sermon. It was almost his first — sounded like a 
trial trip, Uncle James muttered, — but it was undoubtedly 
what connoisseurs describe as an admirable discourse. John 
Greedy was free from any tinge of nervousness — negroes 
never know what that word means, — and he spoke fervently, 
eloquently, and with much power of manner about the 
necessity for a Gold Goast Mission. Perhaps there was 
really nothing very original or striking in what he said, but 
his way of saying it was impressive and vigorous. The 
negro, like many other lower races, has the faculty of speech 
largely developed, and John Greedy had been noted as one 
of the readiest and most fluent talkers at the Oxford Union 
debates. When he enlarged upon the need for woi'kers, 
the need for help, the need for succour and sympathy in the 
great task of evangelisation, Aunt Emily and Ethel forgot 
his black hands, stretched out open-palmed towards the 
people, and felt only their hearts stirred within them by the 
eloquence and enthusiasm of that appealing gesture. 

The end of it all was, that instead of a week John Greedy 
stopped for two months at Walton Magna, and during all 
that time he saw a great deal of Ethel. Before the end of 
the first fortnight he walked out one afternoon along the 
river-bank with her, and talked earnestly of his expected 
mission. 

' Miss Berry,' he said, as they sat to rest awhile on the 
parapet of the little bridge by the weeping willows, ' I don't 
mind going to Africa, but I can't bear going all alone. I 
am to have a station entirely by myself up the Ancobra 
river, where I shall see no other Ghristian face from year's 

15 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

end to year's end. I wish I could have had some one to 
accompany me.' 

' You will be very lonely/ Ethel answered. ' I wish 
indeed you could have some companionship.' 

'Do you really.^' John Creedy went on. ' It is not good 
for man to live alone ; he wants a helpmate. Oh, Miss 
Ethel, may I venture to hope that perhaps, if I can try to 
deserve you, you will be mine ? ' 

Ethel started in dismay. Mr. Creedy had been very 
attentive, very kind, and she had liked to hear him talk, and 
had encouraged his coming, but she was hardly prepared 
for this. The nameless something in our blood recoiled at 
it. The proposal stunned her, and she said nothing but 
' Oh, Mr. Creedy, how can you say such a thing ? ' 

John Creedy saw the shadow on her face, the uninten- 
tional dilatation of her delicate nostrils, the faint puckering 
at the corner of her lips, and knew with a negro's quick 
instinct of face-reading what it all meant. 'Oh, Miss 
Ethel,' he said, with a touch of genuine bitterness in his 
tone, ' don't you, too, despise us. I won't ask you for any 
answer now ; I don't want an answer. But I want you 
to think it over. Do think it over, and consider whether 
you can ever love me. I won't press the matter on you ; 
I won't insult you by importunity ; but I will tell you just 
this once, and once for all, what I feel, I love you, and I 
shall always love you, whatever you answer me now. I 
know it would cost you a wrench to take me, a greater 
wrench than to take the least and the unworthiest of your 
own people. But if you can only get over that first wrench, 
I can promise earnestly and faithfully to love you as well as 
ever woman yet was loved. Don't say anything now,' he 
went on, as he saw she was going to open her mouth again : 
'wait and think it over; pray it over; and if you can't see 
your way straight before you when I ask you this day fort- 
night "Yes or No," answer me "No," and I give you my word 
16 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

of honour as a gentleman I will never speak to you of the 
matter again. But I shall carry your picture written on my 
heart to my grave.' 

And Ethel knew that he was speaking from his very 
soul. 

When she went home^ she took Aunt Emily up into her 
little bedroom, over the porch where the dog-roses grew, 
and told her all about it. Aunt Emily cried and sobbed as 
if her heart would break, but she saw only one answer from 
the first. ' It is a gate opened to you, my darling,' she said : 
' I shall break my heart over it, Ethel, but it is a gate 
opened.' And though she felt that all the light would be 
gone out of her life if Ethel went, she worked with her 
might from that moment forth to induce Ethel to marry 
John Creedy and go to Africa. Poor soul ! she acted faith- 
fully up to her lights. 

As for Uncle James, he looked at the matter very differ- 
ently. ' Her instinct is against it,' he said stoutly, ' and 
our instincts wasn't put in our hearts for nothing. They 're 
meant to be a guide and a light to us in these dark ques- 
tions. No white girl ought to marry a black man, even if 
he is a parson. It ain't natural : our instinct is again it. A 
white man may marry a black woman if he likes : I don't 
say anything again him, though I don't say I 'd do it myself, 
not for any money. But a white woman to marry a black 
man, why, it makes our blood rise, you know, 'specially if 
you've happened to have cruised worth speaking of along 
the Coast.' 

But the vicar and the vicar's wife were charmed with the 
prospect of success, and spoke seriously to Ethel about it. 
It was a call, they thought, and Ethel oughtn't to disregard 
it. They had argued themselves out of those wholesome 
race instincts that Uncle James so rightly valued, and they 
were eager to argue Ethel out of them too. What could 
the poor girl do ? Her aunt and the vicar on the one hand, 
B 17 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

and John Creedy on the other, were too much between 
them for her native feelings. At the end of the fortnight 
John Creedy asked her his simple question 'Yes or No/ and 
half against her will she answered '^ Yes.' John Creedy took 
her hand delicately in his and fervidly kissed the very tips 
of her fingers ; something within him told him he must not 
kiss her lips. She started at the kiss, but she said nothing. 
John Creedy noticed the start, and said within himself, ' I 
shall so love and cherish her that I will make her love me 
in spite of my black skin.' For with all the faults of his 
negro nature, John Creedy was at heart an earnest and 
affectionate man after his kind. 

And Ethel really did, to some extent, love him already. 
It was such a strange mixture of feeling. From one point 
of view he was a gentleman by position, a clergyman, a man 
of learning and of piety ; and from this point of view Ethel 
was not only satisfied, but even proud of him. For the rest, 
she took him as some good Catholics take the veil — from a 
sense of the call. And so, before the two months were out, 
Ethel Berry had married John Creedy, and both started 
together at once for Southampton, on their way to Axim. 
Aunt Emily cried, and hoped they might be blessed in their 
new work, but Uncle James never lost his misgivings about 
the effect of Africa upon a born African. ' Instincts is a 
great thing,' he said, with a shake of his head, as he saw 
the West Coast mail steam slowly down Southampton Water, 
'and when he gets among his own people his instincts will 
surely get the better of him, as safe as my name is James 
Berry.' 



II 

The little mission bungalow at Butabue, a wooden shed 
neatly thatched with fan palms, had been built and gar- 
18 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

nished by the native catechist from Axim and his wife 
before the arrival of the missionaries, so that Ethel found 
a habitable dwelling ready for her at the end of her long 
boat journey up the rapid stream of the Ancobra. There 
the strangely matched pair settled down quietly enough to 
their work of teaching and catechising, for the mission had 
already been started by the native evangelist, and many of 
the people were fairly ready to hear and accept the new 
religion. For the first ten or twelve months Ethel's letters 
home were full of praise and love for dear John. Now that 
she had come to know him well, she wondered she had ever 
feared to marry him. No husband was ever so tender, so 
gentle, so considerate. He nursed her in all her little 
ailments like a woman ; she leaned on him as a wife leans 
on the strong arm of her husband. And then he was so 
clever, so wise, so learned. Her only grief was that she 
feared she was not and would never be good enough for 
him. Yet it was well for her that they were living so 
entirely away from all white society at Butabue, for there 
she had nobody with whom to contrast John but the half- 
clad savages around them. Judged by the light of that 
startling contrast, good John Greedy, with his cultivated 
ways and gentle manners, seemed like an Englishman 
indeed. 

John Greedy, for his part, thought no less well of his 
Ethel. He was tenderly respectful to her; more distant, 
perhaps, than is usual between husband and wife, even in 
the first months of marriage, but that was due to his innate 
delicacy of feeling, which made him half unconsciously 
recognise the depth of the gulf that still divided them. He 
cherished her like some saintly thing, too sacred for the 
common world. Yet Ethel was his helper in all his work, 
so cheerful under the necessary privations of their life, so 
ready to put up with bananas and cassava balls, so apt at 
kneading plantain paste, so willing to learn from the negro 

19 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

women all the mysteries of mixing agadey, cankey, and 
koko pudding. No tropical heat seemed to put her out of 
temper ; even the horrible country fever itself she bore 
with such gentle resignation, John Creedy felt in his heart 
of hearts that he would willingly give up his life for her, 
and that it would be but a small sacrifice for so sweet a 
creature. 

One day, shortly after their arrival at Butabue, John 
Creedy began talking in English to the catechist about the 
best way of setting to work to learn the native language. 
He had left the country when he was nine years old, he 
said, and had forgotten all about it. The catechist an- 
swered him quickly in a Fantee phrase. John Creedy looked 
amazed and started. 

'What does he say.^' asked Ethel. 

' He says that I shall soon learn if only I listen ; but the 
curious thing is, Ethie, that I understand him.' 

'It has come back to you, John, that's all. You are 
so quick at languages, and now you hear it again you 
remember it.' 

'Perhaps so,' said the missionary slowly, 'but I have 
never recalled a word of it for all these years. I wonder if 
it will all come back to me.' 

'Of course it will, dear,' said Ethel; 'you know, things 
come to you so easily in that way. You almost learned 
Portuguese while we were coming out from hearing those 
Benguela people.' 

And so it did come back, sure enough. Before John 
Creedy had been six weeks at Butabue, he could talk Fantee 
as fluently as any of the natives around him. After all, 
he was nine years old when he was taken to England, 
and it was no great wonder that he should recollect the 
language he had heard in his childhood till that age. Still, 
he himself noticed rather uneasily that every phrase and 
word, down to the very heathen charms and prayers of his 
20 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

infancy, came back to him now with startling vividness and 
without an effort. 

Four months after their arrival John saw one day a tall 
and ugly negro woman, in the scanty native dress, standing 
near the rude market-place, where the Butabue butchers 
killed and sold their reeking goat-meat. Ethel saw him 
start again ; and with a terrible foreboding in her heart, she 
could not help asking him why he started. 'I can't tell 
you, Ethie,' he said piteously ; 'for heaven's sake, don't 
press me. I want to spare you.' But Ethel would hear. 
' Is it your mother, John ? ' she asked hoarsely. 

' No, thank Heaven, not my mother, Ethie,' he answered 
her, with something like pallor on his dark cheek, ' not my 
mother ; but I remember the woman.' 

' A relative ? ' 

'Oh, Ethie, don't press me. Yes, my mother's sister. 
I remember her years ago. Let us say no more about it.' 
And Ethel, looking at that gaunt and squalid savage woman, 
shuddered in her heart and said no more. 

Slowly, as time went on, however, Ethel began to notice 
a strange shade of change coming over John's ideas and 
remarks about the negroes. At first he had been shocked 
and distressed at their heathendom and savagery ; but the 
more he saw of it, the more he seemed to find it natural 
enough in their position, and even in a sort of way to 
sympathise with it or apologise for it. One morning, 
a month or two later, he spoke to her voluntarily of his 
father. He had never done so in England. ' I can re- 
member,' he said, ' he was a chief, a great chief. He had 
many wives, and my mother was one. He was beaten 
in war by Kola, and I was taken prisoner. But he had a 
fine palace at Kwantah, and many fan-bearers.' Ethel 
observed with a faint terror that he seemed to speak with 
pride and complacency of his father's chieftaincy. She 
shuddered again and wondered. Was the West African 

21 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

instinct getting the upper hand in him over the Christian 
gentleman ? 

When the dries were over, and the koko-harvest gathered, 
the negroes held a grand feast. John had preached in the 
open air to some of the market-people in the morning, and 
in the evening he was sitting in the hut with Ethel, waiting 
till the catechist and his wife should come in to prayers, 
for they carried out their accustomed ceremony decorously, 
even there, every night and morning. Suddenly they 
heard the din of savage music out of doors, and the noise of 
a great crowd laughing and shouting down the street. John 
listened, and listened with deepening attention. ' Don't 
you hear it, Ethie?' he cried. 'It's the tom-toms. I 
know what it means. It's the harvest battle-feast !' 

' How hideous ! ' said Ethel, shrinking back. 

'Don't be afraid, dearest,' John said, smiling at her. 
' It means no harm. It 's only the people amusing them- 
selves.' And he began to keep time to the tom-toms 
rapidly with the palms of his hands. 

The din drew nearer, and John grew more evidently 
excited at every step. ' Don't you hear, Ethie ? ' he said 
again. ' It 's the Salonga. What inspii-iting music ! It 's 
like a drum and fife band ; it 's like the bagpipes ; it 's like a 
military march. By Jove, it compels one to dance ! ' And 
he got up as he spoke, in English clerical dress (for he 
wore clerical dress even at Butabue), and began capering 
in a sort of hornpipe round the tiny room. 

'Oh, John, don't!' cried Ethel. 'Suppose the catechist 
were to come in !' 

But John's blood was up. ' Look here,' he said ex- 
citedly, ' it goes like this. Here you hold your matchlock 
out ; here you fire ; here you charge with cutlasses ; here 
you hack them down before you ; here you hold up your 
enemy's head in your hands, and here you kick it off 
among the women. Oh, it 's grand ! ' There was a terrible 
22 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

light in his black eyes as he spoke, and a terrible trem- 
bling in his clenched black hands. 

'John,' ci'ied Ethel, in an agony of horror, 'it isn't 
Christian, it isn't human, it isn't worthy of you. I can 
never, never love you if you do such a thing again.' 

In a moment John's face changed and his hand fell as 
if she had stabbed him. ' Ethie,' he said in a low voice, 
creeping back to her like a whipped spaniel,—' Ethie, my 
darling, my own soul, my beloved ; what have I done .'' Oh, 
heavens, I will never listen to the accursed thing again ! 
Oh, Ethie, for heaven's sake, for mercy's sake, forgive 
me ! ' 



Ethel laid her hand, trembling, on his head. John sank 
upon his knees before her, and bowed himself down with his 
head between his arms, like one staggered and penitent. 
Ethel lifted him gently, and at that moment the catechist 
and his wife came in. John stood up firmly, took down his 
Bible and Prayer Book, and read through evening prayer at 
once in his usual impressive tone. In one moment he had 
changed back again from the Fantee savage to the decorous 
Oxford clergyman. 

It was only a week later that Ethel, hunting about in the 
little storeroom, happened to notice a stout wooden box 
carefully covered up. She opened the lid with some diffi- 
culty, for it was fastened down with a native lock, and to her 
horror she found inside it a surreptitious keg of raw negro 
rum. She took the keg out, put it conspicuously in the 
midst of the storeroom, and said nothing. That night she 
heard John in the jungle behind the yard, and looking out, 
she saw dimly that he was hacking the keg to pieces 
vehemently with an axe. After that he was even kinder 
and tenderer to her than usual for the next week ; but Ethel 
vaguely remembered that once or twice before he had 
seemed a little odd in his manner, and that it was on those 
days that she had seen gleams of the savage nature peeping 

23 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

through. Perhaps, she thought, with a shiver, his civilisation 
was only a veneer, and a glass of raw rum or so was enough 
to wash it off. 

Twelve months after their first arrival, Ethel came home 
very fevei-ish one evening from her girls' school, and found 
John gone from the hut. Searching about in the room for 
the quinine bottle, she came once more upon a rum-keg, 
and this time it was empty. A nameless terror drove her 
into the little bedroom. There, on the bed, torn into a 
hundred shreds, lay John Greedy 's black coat and European 
clothing. The room whirled around her ; and though she 
had never heard of such a thing before, the terrible truth 
flashed across her bewildered mind like a hideous dream. 
She went out, alone, at night, as she had never done before 
since she came to Africa, into the broad lane between the 
huts which constituted the chief street of Butabue. So far 
away from home, so utterly solitary among all those black 
faces, so sick at heart with that burning and devouring 
horror ! She reeled and staggered down the street, not 
knowing how or where she went, till at the end, beneath 
the two tall date-palms, she saw lights flashing and heard the 
noise of shouts and laughter. A group of natives, men and 
women together, were dancing and howling round a dancing 
and howling negro. The central figure was dressed in the 
native fashion, with arms and legs bare, and he was shouting 
a loud song at the top of his voice in the Fantee language, 
while he shook a tom-tom. There was a huskiness as of 
drink in his throat, and his steps were unsteady and doubtful. 
Great heavens ! could that reeling, shrieking black savage 
be John Greedy ? 

Yes, instinct had gained the day over civilisation ; the 
savage in John Greedy had broken out ; he had torn up his 
English clothes and, in West African parlance, 'had gone 
Fantee.' Ethel gazed at him, white with horror — stood still 
and gazed, and never cried nor fainted, nor said a word. 
24 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

The crowd of negroes divided to right and left, and John 
Creedy saw his wife standing there like a marble figure. 
With one awful cry he came to himself again, and rushed to 
her side. She did not repel him, as he expected ; she did 
not speak ; she was mute and cold like a corpse, not like a 
living woman. He took her up in his strong arms, laid her 
head on his shoulder, and carried her home through the long 
line of thatched huts, erect and steady as when he first 
walked up the aisle of Walton Magna church. Then he 
laid her down gently on the bed, and called the wife of the 
catechist. ' She has the fever,' he said in Fantee. ' Sit by 
her.' 

The catechist's wife looked at her, and said, 'Yes; the 
yellow fever.' 

And so she had. Even before she saw John the fever 
had been upon her, and that awful revelation had brought 
it out suddenly in full force. She lay unconscious upon the 
bed, her eyes open, staring ghastlily, but not a trace of 
colour in her cheek nor a sign of life upon her face. 

John Creedy wrote a few words upon a piece of paper, 
which he folded in his hand, gave a few directions in Fantee 
to the woman at the bedside, and then hurried out like one 
on fire into the darkness outside. 



HI 

It was thirty miles through the jungle by a native track- 
way to the nearest mission station at EfFuenta. There were 
two Methodist missionaries stationed there, John Creedy 
knew, for he had gone round by boat more than once to see 
them. When he first came to Africa he could no more have 
found his way across the neck of the river fork by that tangled 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

jungle track than he could have flown bodily over the top 
of the cocoa palms ; but now, half naked, barefooted, and 
inspired with an overpowering emotion, he threaded his 
path through the darkness among the creepers and lianas of 
the forest in true African fashion. Stooping here, creeping 
on all fours there, running in the open at full speed anon, he 
never once stopped to draw breath till he had covered the 
whole thirty miles, and knocked in the early dawn at the 
door of the mission hut at EfFuenta. 

One of the missionaries opened the barred door cautiously. 
* What do you want .'' ' he asked in Fantee of the bare-legged 
savage, who stood crouching by the threshold. 

' I bring a message from Missionary John Creedy,' the 
bare-legged savage answered, also in Fantee. ' He wants 
European clothes.' 

' Has he sent a letter .'' ' asked the missionary. 

John Creedy took the folded piece of paper from his 
palm. The missionary read it. It told him in a few words 
how the Butabue people had pillaged John's hut at night 
and stolen his clothing, and how he could not go outside his 
door till he got some European dress again. 

* This is strange,' said the missionary. ' Brother Felton 
died three days ago of the fever. You can take his clothes 
to Brother Creedy, if you will.' 

The bare-limbed savage nodded acquiescence. The 
missionary looked hard at him, and fancied he had seen 
his face before, but he never even for a moment suspected 
that he was speaking to John Creedy himself. 

A bundle was soon made of dead Brother Felton's clothes, 
and the bare-limbed man took it in his arms and prepared to 
run back again the whole way to Butabue. 

' You have had nothing to eat,' said the lonely missionary. 
'Won't you take something to help you on your way .-^ ' 

' Give me some plantain paste,' answered John Creedy. ' I 
can eat it as I go.' And when they gave it him he forgot 
26 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

himself for the moment, and answered 'Thank you' in 
Enghsh. The missionary stared, but thought it was only 
a single phrase that he had picked up at Butabue, and 
that he was anxious, negro-fashion, to air his know- 
ledge. 

Back through the jungle, with the bundle in his arms, 
John Creedy wormed his way once more, like a snake or a 
tiger, never pausing or halting on the road till he found 
himself again in the open space outside the village of Buta- 
bue. There he stayed a while, and behind a clump of wild 
ginger he opened the bundle and arrayed himself once more 
from head to foot in English clerical dress. That done, too 
proud to slink, he walked bold and erect down the main 
alley, and quietly entered his own hut. It was high noon, 
the baking high noon of Africa, as he did so. 

Ethel lay unconscious still upon the bed. The negro 
woman crouched, half asleep after her night's watching, at 
the foot. John Creedy looked at his watch, which stood 
hard by on the little wooden table. ' Sixty miles in fourteen 
hours,' he said aloud. 'Better time by a great deal than 
when we walked from Oxford to the White Horse eighteen 
months since.' And then he sat down silently by Ethel's 
bedside. 

' Has she moved her eyes ? ' he asked the negress. 

' Never, John Creedy,' answered the woman. Till last 
night she had always called him ' Master.' 

He watched the lifeless face for an hour or two. There 
was no change in it till about four o'clock ; then Ethel's eyes 
began to alter their expression. He saw the dilated pupils 
contract a little, and knew that consciousness was gradually 
returning. 

In a moment more she looked round at him and gave a 
little cry. ' John,' she exclaimed, with a sort of awakening 
hopefulness in her voice, ' where on earth did you get those 
clothes ? ' 

27 



THE REVEREND JOHN CREEDY 

* These clothes ? ' he answered softly. ' Why, you must be 
wandering in your mind, Ethie deai-est, to ask such a ques- 
tion now. At Standen's, in the High at Oxford,, my darling.' 
And he passed his black hand gently across her loose hair. 

Ethel gave a great cry of joy. 'Then it was a dream, a 
horrid dream, John, or a terrible mistake .'' Oh, John, say 
it was a dream ! ' 

John drew his hand across his forehead slowly. ' Ethie 
darling,' he said, ' you are wandering, I 'm afraid. You have 
a bad fever. I don't know what you mean.' 

'Then you didn't tear them up, and wear a Fantee dress, 
and dance with a tom-tom down the street ? Oh, John ! ' 

' Oh, Ethel ! No. What a terrible delirium you must 
have had ! ' 

' It is all well,' she said. ' I don't mind if I die now.* 
And she sank back exhausted into a sort of feverish sleep. 

* John Creedy,' said the black catechist's wife solemnly, 
in Fantee, ' you will have to answer for that lie to a dying 
woman with your soul ! ' 

' My soul ! ' cried John Creedy passionately, smiting both 
breasts with his clenched fists. 'Mjy soul ! Do you think, 
you negro wench, I wouldn't give ?/ii/ poor, miserable, black 
soul to eternal torments a thousand times over, if only I 
could give her little white heart one moment's forgetfulness 
before she dies? ' 

For five days longer Ethel lingered in the burning fever, 
sometimes conscious for a minute or two, but for the most 
part delii'ious or drowsy all the time. She never said another 
word to John about her terrible dream, and John never said 
another word to her. But he sat by her side and tended her 
like a woman, doing everything that was possible for her 
in the bare little hut, and devouring his full heart with a 
horrible gnawing remorse too deep for pen or tongue to 
probe and fathom. For civilisation with John Creedy was 
really at bottom far more than a mere veneer ; though the 



THE REVEREND JOHN GREEDY 

savage instincts might break out with him now and again, 
such outbursts no more affected his adult and acquired nature 
than a single bump-supper or wine-party at college affects 
the nature of many a gentle-minded English lad. The truest 
John Creedy of all was the gentle, tender, English clergyman. 

As he sat by her bedside sleepless and agonised, night 
and day, for five days together, one prayer only rose to his 
lips time after time, "^ Heaven grant she may die!' He 
had depth enough in the civilised side of his soul to feel 
that that was the only way to save her from a lifelong shame. 
' If she gets well,' he said to himself, trembling, ' I will leave 
this accursed Africa at once. I will work my way back to 
England as a common sailor, and send her home by the mail 
with my remaining money. 1 will never inflict my presence 
upon her again, for she cannot be persuaded, if once she 
I'ecovers, that she did not see me, as she did see me, a bare- 
limbed heathen Fantee brandishing a devilish tom-tom. But 
I shall get work in England — not a parson's ; that I can 
never be again — but clerk's work, labourer's work, navvy's 
work, anything ! Look at my arms : I rowed five in the 
Magdalen eight: I could hold a spade as well as any man. 
I will toil, and slave, and save, and keep her still like a lady, 
if I starve for it myself: but she shall never see my face 
again if once she recovers. Even then it will be a living 
death for her, poor angel ! There is only one hope — Heaven 
grant she may die ! ' 

On the fifth day she opened her eyes once. John saw 
that his prayer was about to be fulfilled. ' John,' she said 
feebly — ' John, tell me, on your honour, it was only my 
delirium.' 

And John, raising his hand to heaven, splendide mendax, 
answered in a firm voice, ' I swear it.' 

Ethel smiled and shut her eyes. It was for the last 
time. 

Next morning, John Creedy — tearless, but parched and dry 

29 



THE REVEREND JOHN CREEDY 

in the mouth, like one stunned and unmanned — took a pick- 
axe and hewed out a rude grave in the loose soil near the 
river. Then he fashioned a rough coffin from twisted canes 
with his own hands, and in it he reverently placed the sacred 
body. He allowed no one to help him or come near him — 
not even his fellow-Christians, the catechist and his wife : 
Ethel was too holy a thing for their African hands to touch. 
Next he put on his white surplice, and for the first and only 
time in his life he read, without a quaver in his voice, the 
Church of England Burial Service over the open grave. And 
when he had finished he went back to his desolate hut, and 
cried with a loud voice of utter despair, ' The one thing that 
bound me to civilisation is gone. Henceforth I shall never 
speak another word of English. I go to my own people.' 
So saying, he solemnly tore up his European clothes once 
more, bound a cotton loin-cloth round his waist, covered his 
head with dirt, and sat fasting and wailing piteously, like a 
broken-hearted child, in his cabin. 

Nowadays, the old half-caste Portuguese rum-dealer at 
Butabue can point out to any English pioneer who comes up 
the river which one, among a crowd of dilapidated negroes 
who lie basking in the soft dust outside his hut, was once 
the Reverend John Creedy, B.A., of Magdalen College, 
Oxford. 



30 



II 
FRASINE'S FIRST COMMUNION 



FRASINKS FIRST COMMUNION 

Zelie was our cook. She came back to us each winter when 
we returned to the Riviera, and went away again in spring 
to Aix-les-Bains, where she always made her summer season 
with a German family. A thorough-going Proven^ale was 
Zelie^ olive-skinned, black-haired, thick-lipped, pleasant- 
featured, with flashing dark eyes and a merry mouth, well 
shaped to make a mock at you. Nobody would have called 
Zelie exactly pretty : but she was comely and buxom, and 
good-humoured withal ; while, as for pot-au-feu, she had not 
her equal in the whole Department. She said qoux for 
choux, and qapeaii for chapeau ; but her smile was infectious, 
and her kindness of heart was as undoubted as her 
omelettes. 

One April afternoon, Ruth went out into the kitchen. She 
didn't often penetrate into such regions at the villa ; for 
Zelie, on that point, was strictly conservative. ' If Madame 
desires to see me,' she used to say, ' I receive at half-past 
nine in the morning, when I come home from marketing. 
At all other hours, I am happy to return Madame's call in 
the salon.' Zelie was too good a servant to make it worth 
while for us to risk her displeasure ; and the consequence 
was that Ruth seldom ventured into Zelie's keep except at 
the hour of her cook's reception. 

On this particular day, however, Ruth veas surprised to 
c 33 



FRASINKS FIRST COMMUNION 

see Zelie seated at the table, stitching away at what appeared 
to be a bridal garment. Such white muslin and white tulle 
gave her a turn for a moment. ' Why, Zelie ! ' she cried, 
putting one hand to her heai't, ' you 're not going to 
be married .'' ' For cooks like Zelie are rare on the 
Littoral. 

' Ma foi! no, Madame,' Zelie answered, laughing. 'I 
confection a robe for Frasine, who makes her first Com- 
munion.' 

' Frasine ! ' Ruth exclaimed. ' And who may Frasine be } 
Your sister, I suppose, Zelie .'' ' 

Zelie smoothed out a flounce with one capable brown 
hand. ' No, Madame,' she said demurely ; ' Frasine is my 
daughter.' 

' Your daughter ! ' Ruth cried, staring at her. ' But, Zelie, 
I never even knew you were married ! ' 

Zelie smoothed still more vigorously at the edge of the 
flounce. ' Mais no7i, Madame,' she continued, in her most 
matter-of-fact voice. ' It arrived so, you see. Hector's 
family were against it, and thus it never happened.' 

Ruth gazed at her, much shaken. ' But, Zelie,' she 
murmured, seizing her hand in dismay, ' do you mean to 
tell me ? ' 

Zelie nodded her head sagely. ' Yes, yes, Madame,' she 
answered. ' These things come so to us other poor people. 
It is not like that, I know, ches voiis. But hei'e in France, 
let us allow, the law is so difficult.' 

' Tell me all about it,' Ruth cried, sinking down on to one 
of the kitchen chairs, and looking up at her appealingly. 
' What age has your daughter ? ' 

' Frasine is twelve years old,' Zelie answered, still going 
on with her work, 'and a pretty girl, too, though 'tis the 
word of a mother. You see, Madame, it came about like 
this. The good Hector was in love with me ; but he was in 
a better position than my parents for his part, for his father 
34 



FRASINE^S FIRST COMMUNION 

was proprietor, while mine was workman. They owned a 
beautiful property up in our hills near Vence — oh, a beauti- 
ful property ! They harvested I could not tell you how many 
hectolitres of olives. Their little blue wine was renowned 
in the country. Well, Hector loved me, and I loved Hector. 
Que voulez-vous? We were thrown, in our work, very much 
together.' She paused, and glanced shyly askance at Ruth 
with those expressive eyes of hers. 

' And he didn't marry you } ' Ruth asked, faltering. 

' He meant to, Madame : I assure you, he meant to,' Zelie 
answered hastily. ' He was a kind soul. Hector ; he began 
it all at first for the good motive. But, meanwhile, you 

understand, in waiting for the priest ' Zelie lifted her 

flounce close up to her face and stitched away at it 
nervously. 

' And that was all ? ' Ruth put in, with her scared white 
face — I could hear and see it all through the door from my 
study. 

'That was all, Madame,' Zelie answered, very low. '\ 
m'a dit, " Veux-tu .^ " Je lui ai dit, "Je veux bien." Et 
tout d'un coup, nous voila pere et mere presque sans le 
savoir.' 

There was a pause for a moment, during which you could 
hear Zelie's needle go stitch, stitch, stitch, through the stiff 
starched muslin. Then Ruth spoke again : ' And, after that, 
he left you } ' 

Zelie's stoicism began to give way a little. There were 
tears in her eyes, but still she stitched on, to hide her con- 
fusion. ' He never meant any harm, my poor boy ! ' she 
answered, bending over. 'He really loved me, and he 
always hoped, in the end, to marry me. So, when he knew 
Frasine was beginning to be, he said to me, one fine day, 
" Zelie, I will go up to Vence, and arrange your affair with 
my father and the cure." And he went up to Vence, and 
asked his father's consent to our marriage; for, chez nous, you 

35 



FRASINE'S FIRST COMMUNION 

know, one is not permitted to marry without the consent of 
one's family. But Hector's father was very angry at the 
news, and refused his consent, because he was proprietor, 
and I was but a servant. And about that time it was 
Hector's year to serve, and they put him into a regiment 
that was stationed a long way off — oh ! a very long way off 
— quite far from my country, in the direction of Orleans. 
And without his father's consent, of course, he could never 
marry me, for that 's our law hei-e in France, to us others. 
So he served his time, and at the end of it all — well, he 
married another woman, and settled in Paris.' 

' He married another woman,' Ruth repeated slowly, ' and 
left you with Frasine.' 

' Parfaitement, Madame,' Zelie answered with a gulp. 
Then, all at once, her stoicism broke down completely ; she 
laid aside her sewing, and burst into tears with perfect 
frankness. 

Ruth bent over her tenderly and stroked her brown hand. 
' Dear Zelie ! ' she said ; '^he treated you cruelly.' 

' No, no, Madame ! ' Zelie answered through her tears, still 
loyal to her lover. ' You do not understand. He could not 
help it. He was a brave boy, Hector. He meant to do 
well, it was all for the good motive ; but his family opposed ; 
and with us, when your family oppose, mon Dieu! it is 
finished. But still, he was good ; he did what he could for 
me. He acknowledged his child, and entered it at the 
Mairie as his own and mine, which alters, of course, its etat 
civil — Frasine has right, at his death, to a share of his pro- 
perty. My poor, good Hector ! it was all he could do for 
me.' 

Ruth burst away at once, and came in to me, crying. 
This was all so new to her, and we were both of us so 
genuinely attached to Zelie. ' Oh, Hugh ! ' she began, 
'Zelie's been telling me such a dreadful, dreadful story. Do 

you know she has ' 

3Q 



FRASINE'S FIRST COMMUNION 

'My child,' I said, 'you may save yourself the trouble of 
repeating it all to me ; I 've heard through the door every 
blessed word you two have been saying.' 

Ruth stood by my side, all tearful. ' But isn't it sad, 
Hugh ? ' she said ; ' and she seemed so resigned to it.' 

' Very sad, dear,' I answered. ' But, do you know, little 
Ruthie, I 'm afraid such stories are by no means uncommon 
— abroad, I mean, dear.' 

' Hugh,' Ruth cried, seizing my arm, ' we must see this 
little girl of hers.' She rushed out into the kitchen again. 
' Zelie,' she said, ' where is Frasine .'' ' 

Zelie had taken up her sewing once more by this time, 
and answered with a little sob, ' In our mountains, Madame, 
near Vence ; in effect, she lives with my parents.' 

' And do you see her often ? ' Ruth asked. 

' Once in fifteen days she comes to Mass in the town,' 
Zelie answered with a sigh; 'and then, when Madame's 
convenience permits, I usually see her. And when I have 
made my winter season, I go up for eight days with her, to 
stop with my people, before I leave for Aix-les-Bains ; and 
when I return again in autumn, before Madame arrives, I 
have eight days more. Ce sont Id mes vacances.' 

' And where will she make her first Communion .'' ' Ruth 
asked. 

'Why, naturally, in the town,' Zelie answered, 'with the 
other young people. The Bishop of Frejus comes over, 
from here a fortnight.' 

' Bring her down here,' Ruth said in her imperious little 
way. ' Let her stop with us till the time. Monsieur and I 
desire to see hex*.' 

So Frasine came down, and very proud indeed Zelie was 
of her daughter. Barring the irregularity of her first 
appearance in this wicked world, Zelie had cause to be 
proud of her. She was tall and well grown and as modest 
as a rosiere. She had dove-like eyes and peach bloom on 

37 



FRASINE^S FIRST COMMUNION 

her cheeks ; and when Ruth and Zelie had arranged her, all 
blushing, in her pretty white dress and her long tulle veil, 
she looked a perfect model for Jules Breton's young 
Christians. Zelie kissed her as she stood there with a 
mother's fervour; and Ruth kissed her, I declare, just as 
fervently as Zelie. They couldn't have made more fuss 
about that slip of a girl if Frasine's father had kept 
his promise and the child had been born in lawful 
wedlock. 

After a day or two Ruth began to talk about something 
that was troubling her. It was a very serious thing, she 
said, this first Communion. It was an epoch in a girl's life, 
a family occasion. Every member of the family ought to be 
apprised of it beforehand. Hector might be married to 
another horrid woman in Paris, but, after all, Frasine was 
his daughter, acknowledged as such in due form at the 
Mairie. I 'm bound to say that, though Ruth is a stickler 
for the strictest morality on our side of the Channel, she 
didn't take much account of that woman in Paris. I ven- 
tured to suggest that to invite the good Hector to the first 
Communion might be to endanger the peace of a deserving 
family. Madame Hector de jure might be unaware of the 
existence of her predecessor de facto, and might regard little 
Frasine, as an unauthorised interloper, with no friendly feel- 
ing. But Ruth was inexorable. You know her imperious, 
delicious little way when she once gets a fixed idea into that 
dear glossy head of hers. She insisted on maintaining the 
untenable position that a man is somehow really and truly 
related to his own children, no matter who may be their 
mother. As an English barrister, I humbly endeavoured to 
point out to her the fact that recognition of this pernicious 
principle would involve the downfall of law and order. Still, 
Ruth was impervious to my sound argument on the subject, 
and refused to listen to the voice of Blackstone. So the 
end of it all was that she persuaded Zelie to write to Hector, 
38 



FRASINE'S FIRST COMMUNION 

informing him of this important forthcoming epoch in their 
daughter's history. 

Of course, I had a week of it. To search for Hector in 
Paris^ after nine years' silence, would be to search for a 
needle in a bottle of hay, as I pointed out at once to those 
two fatuous women. My own opinion was that Hector was 
to be found (as we say facetiously) in the twenty-first 
arro7idissement-,-the point of which is that there are but 
twenty. But I rushed up to Vence all the same, to pro- 
secute inquii'ies as to what had become of the former owner 
of that belle propriete which loomed so large in Zelie's 
imagination. With infinite difficulty, and after many trials, 
I had reason to believe, at last, that the novnne Hector 
Canivet, ancient proprietor, was to be found at a certain 
number in a certain street in the Montmartre Quax-tier. 
Hither, therefore, we despatched our letter of invitation, 
dexterously concocted in our very best French by Ruth, 
Zelie, and myself in council assembled. It informed 
Monsieur Hector Canivet, without note or comment, that 
Mdlle. Euphrasyne Canivet, now aged twelve years, would 
make her first Communion in our parish church on Wednes- 
day the 22nd, and that Mdlle. Zelie Duhamel invited his 
presence on this auspicious occasion. As an English 
barrister, I insisted upon the point that consideration for 
the feelings of Madame Canivet in Paris should make us 
leave it open for M. Hector Canivet to treat Mdlle. Euphra- 
syne, if he were so minded, as a distant cousin. So much 
of masculine guile have I still left in me. Ruth was 
disposed to protest ; but Zelie, more French, acquiesced in 
ray view of the case, and over-persuaded her. 

Three days later I was sitting in my study, intent on the 
twenty-fourth chapter of my ' History of the Rise of the 
Republic of San Marino,' when suddenly the door opened, 
and Euth burst in upon me with the most radiant expression 
of perfect happiness I ever saw even on that dimpled face 

39 



FRASINKS FIRST COMMUNION 

of hers. She held a letter in her hand, which she thrust 
forward to me eagerly. 

' What 's up ? ' I asked. ' Has that brute of a husband 
of Amelia's been kind enough to drink himself to death at 
last } ' 

' No ; read it, read it ! ' Ruth exclaimed, brimming over. 
' Zelie and Frasine are dissolved in tears in the kitchen over 
the news. I knew I was doing right ! I was sure we ought 
to tell him ! ' 

I took the letter up in a maze. It was involved and long- 
winded, full of the usual inflated rhetoric of the Provencal 
peasant. But there was no doubt at all about the human 
feeling of it. Monsieur Hector Canivet wrote with the pro- 
foundest emotion. He had always loved and remembered 
his dear Zelie. She was still his dream to him. He had 
mari'ied and settled because his parents wished it ; but now, 
his parents were dead, and he had sold his property, and 
was doing very well at his metier in Paris. The late Madame 
Canivet — on whose soul might the blessed saints have mercy ! 
— had died two years ago. Ever since that event he had 
had it in his mind to return to his country, and look up 
Zelie and his dear daughter ; but pride, and uncertainty as 
to her feelings, had prevented him. It was so long ago, and 
he knew not her feelings. He took this intimation, however, 
as a proof that Zelie had not yet entirely forgotten him ; and 
if the devotion of a lifetime, and a comfortable fortune (for 
a hourgeois) in Paris, would atone to Zelie for his neglect in 
the past, he proposed not only to be present at Frasine's 
first Communion, but also to superadd to it another Sacra- 
ment of the Church which he was only too conscious should 
have preceded her baptism. In short, if Zelie was still of 
the same mind as of old, he desired to return, in order to 
marry her. 

' That 's well,' I said. ' He will legitimatise his daughter.' 

' You don't mean to say,' Ruth cried, ' he can make it 
40 



FRASINE'S FIRST COMMUNION 

just the same as if he 'd married Zelie all right to begin 
with ? ' 

' Why, certainly ! ' I answered ; ' in France, the law is 
sometimes quite human.' 

Ruth rushed into my arms. And the brave Hector was 
as good as his word. 

But we shall never get another cook like Zelie ! 



41 



Ill 
THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

' Poor little thing,' said my strong-minded friend compassion- 
aiehj. ' Just look at her ! Clubfoot ed. What a misery to her- 
self and others I In a well-organised state of society, you know, 
such poor wee cripples as that would be quietly pid oid of their 
misery while they were still babies.' 

' Let me think,' said I, ' ho7V that would work out in actual 
practice. I 'm not so sure, after all, that we shoidd be altogether 
the better or the happier for it.' 



They sat together in a corner of the beautiful phalanstery 
garden, Olive and Clarence, on the marble seat that overhung 
the mossy dell where the streamlet danced and bickered 
among its pebbly stickles ; they sat there, hand in hand, in 
lovers' guise, and felt their two bosoms beating and thrilling 
in some strange, sweet fashion, just like two foolish unregen- 
erate young people of the old antisocial prephalansteric days. 
Perhaps it was the leaven of their unenlightened ancestors 
still leavening by heredity the whole lump; perhaps it was 
the inspiration of the calm soft August evening and the deli- 
cate afterglow of the setting sun ; perhaps it was the deep 
heart of man and woman vibrating still as of yore in human 
sympathy, and stirred to its innermost recesses by the un- 

45 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

utterable bi'eath of human emotion. But at any rate there 
they sat, the beautiful strong man in his shapely chiton, and 
the dainty fair girl in her long white robe with the dark 
green embroidered border, looking far into the fathomless 
depths of one another's eyes, in silence sweeter and more 
eloquent than many words. It was Olive's tenth day holiday 
from her share in the maidens' household duty of the com- 
munity ; and Clarence, by arrangement with his friend 
Germain, had made exchange from his own decade (which 
fell on Plato) to this quiet Milton evening, that he might 
wander through the park and gardens with his chosen love, 
and speak his full mind to her now without reserve. 

' If only the phalanstery will give its consent, Clarence,' 
Olive said at last with a little sigh, releasing her hand from 
his, and gathering up the folds of her stole from the marble 
flooring of the seat ; — ' if only the phalanstery will give its 
consent ! but I have my doubts about it. Is it quite right ? 
Have we chosen quite wisely .'' Will the hierarch and the 
elder brothers think I am strong enough and fit enough for 
the duties of the task ? It is no light matter, we know, to 
enter into bonds with one another for the responsibilities of 
fatherhood and motherhood. I sometimes feel — forgive me, 
Clarence — but I sometimes feel as if I were allowing my own 
heart and my own wishes to guide me too exclusively in this 
solemn question : thinking too much about you and me, 
about ourselves (which is only an enlarged form of selfish- 
ness, after all), and too little about the future good of the 
community and — and — ' blushing a little, for women will be 
women even in a phalansteiy — ' and of the precious lives we 
may be the means of adding to it. You remember, Clarence, 
what the hierarch said, that we ought to think least and last 
of our own feelings, first and foremost of the progressive 
evolution of universal humanity.' 

' I remember, darling,' Clai-ence answered, leaning over 
towards her tenderly ; ' I remember well, and in my own 
46 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

way, so far as a man can (for we men haven't the moral 
earnestness of you women, I 'm afraid, Olive), I try to act up 
to it. But, dearest, I think your fears are greater than they 
need be : you must recollect that humanity requires for its 
higher development tenderness, and truth, and love, and all 
the softer qualities, as well as strength and manliness ; and 
if you are a trifle less strong than most of our sisters here, 
you seem to me at least (and I really believe to the hierarch 
and to the elder brothers too) to make up for it, and more 
than make up for it, in your sweet and lovable inner nature. 
The men of the future mustn't all be cast in one unvarying 
stereotyped mould ; we must have a little of all good types 
combined, in order to make a perfect phalanstery.' 

Olive sighed again. ' I don't know,' she said pensively. 
' I don't feel sure. I hope I am doing right. In my aspira- 
tions every evening I have desired light on this matter, and 
have earnestly hoped that I was not being misled by my own 
feelings ; for, oh, Clarence, I do love you so dearly, so truly, 
so absorbingly, that I half fear my love may be taking me 
unwittingly astray. I try to curb it ; I try to think of it all 
as the hierarch tells us we ought to ; but in my own heart I 
sometimes almost fear that I may be lapsing into the idola- 
trous love of the old days, when people married and were 
given in marriage, and thought only of the gratification of 
their own personal emotions and affections, and nothing of 
the ultimate good of humanity. Oh, Clarence, don't hate 
me and despise me for it ; don't turn upon me and scold me ; 
but I love you, I love you, I love you ; oh, I 'm afraid I love 
you almost idolatrously ! ' 

Clarence lifted her small white hand slowly to his lips, 
with that natural air of chivalrous respect which came so 
easily to the young men of the phalanstery, and kissed it twice 
over fervidly with quiet reverence. ' Let us go into the 
music-room, Olive dearest,' he said as he rose ; ' you are too 
sad to-night. You shall play me that sweet piece of 

47 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

Marian's that you love so much ; and that will quiet you, 
darling, from thinking too earnestly about this serious 
matter.' 



II 

Next day, when Clarence had finished his daily spell of 
work in the fruit-garden (he was third under-gardener to the 
community), he went up to his own study, and wrote out a 
little notice in due form to be posted at dinner-time on the 
refectory door : ' Clarence and Olive ask leave of the phal- 
anstery to enter with one another into free contract of holy 
matrimony.' His pen trembled a little in his hand as he 
framed that familiar set form of words (strange that he had 
read it so often with so little emotion, and wrote it now with 
so much : we men are so selfish !) ; but he fixed it boldly with 
four small brass nails on the regulation notice-board, and 
waited, not without a certain quiet confidence, for the final 
result of the communal council. 

' Aha ! ' said the hierarch to himself with a kindly smile, as 
he passed into the refectory at dinner-time that day, ' has it 
come to that, then .'' Well, well, I thought as much ; I felt 
sure it would. A good girl, Olive : a true, earnest, lovable 
girl : and she has chosen wisely, too ; for Clarence is the 
very man to balance her own character as man's and wife's 
should do. Whether Clarence has done well in selecting her 
is another matter. For my own part, I had rather hoped 
she would have joined the celibate sisters, and have taken 
nurse-duty for the sick and the children. It's her natural 
function in life, the work she 's best fitted for ; and I should 
have liked to see her take to it. But, after all, the business of 
the phalanstery is not to decide vicariously for its individual 
members — not to thwart their natural harmless inclinations 
48 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

and wishes ; on the contrary, we ought to allow evei*y man 
and girl the fullest liberty to follow their own personal taste 
and judgment in every possible matter. Our power of inter- 
ference as a community, I've always felt and said, should 
only extend to the prevention of obviously wrong and im- 
moral acts, such as marriage with a person in ill-health, or 
of inferior mental power, or with a distinctly bad or insubor- 
dinate temper. Things of that sort, of course, are as clearly 
wicked as idling in work-hours, or marriage with a first 
cousin. Olive's health, however, isn't really bad, nothing 
more than a very slight feebleness of constitution, as con- 
stitutions go with us ; and Eustace, who has attended her 
medically from her babyhood (what a dear crowing little 
thing she used to be in the nursery, to be sure !), tells me she 's 
perfectly fitted for the duties of her proposed situation. Ah 
well, ah well ; I 've no doubt they '11 be perfectly happy ; 
and the wishes of the whole phalanstery will go with them 
in any case, that 's certain.' 

Everybody knew that whatever the hierarch said or 
thought was pretty sure to be approved by the unanimous 
voice of the entire community. Not that he was at all a 
dictatorial or dogmatic old man ; quite the contrary ; but 
his gentle kindly way had its full weight with the brothers ; 
and his intimate acquaintance, through the exercise of his 
spiritual functions, with the inmost thoughts and ideas of 
every individual member, man or woman, made him a safe 
guide in all difficult or delicate questions, as to what the 
decision of the council ought to be. So when, on the first 
Cosmos, the elder brothers assembled to transact phalan- 
steric business, and the hierarch put in Clarence's request 
with the simple phrase, ' In my opinion, there is no reason- 
able objection,' the community at once gave in its adhesion, 
and formal notice was posted an hour later on the refectory 
door, ' The phalanstery approves the proposition of Clarence 
and Olive, and wishes all happiness to them and to humanity 
D 49 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

from the sacred union they now contemplate.' ' You see, 
dearest/ Clarence said, kissing her lips for the first time (as 
unwritten law demanded), now that the seal of the com- 
munity had been placed upon their choice, ' you see, there 
can't be any harm in our contract, for the elder brothers 
all approve it.' 

Olive smiled and sighed from the very bottom of her full 
heart, and clung to her lover as the ivy clings to a strong 
supporting oak-tree. ' Darling,' she murmured in his ear, 
' if I have you to comfort me, I shall not be afraid, and we 
will try our best to work together for the advancement and 
the good of divine humanity.' 

Four decades later, on a bright Cosmos morning in Sep- 
tember, those two stood up beside one another before the 
altar of humanity, and heard with a thrill the voice of the 
hierarch uttering that solemn declaration, ' In the name of 
the Past, and of the Present, and of the Future, I hereby 
admit you, Clarence and Olive, into the holy society of 
Fathers and Mothers, of the United Avondale Phalanstery, 
in trust for humanity, whose stewards you are. May you 
so use and enhance the good gifts you have received from 
your ancestors that you may hand them on, untarnished 
and increased, to the bodies and minds of your furthest de- 
scendants.' And Clarence and Olive answered humbly 
and reverently, ' If grace be given us, we will.' 



Ill 



Brother Eustace, physiologist to the phalanstery, looked 

very grave and sad indeed as he passed from the Mothers' 

Room into the Conversazione in search of the hierarch. ' A 

child is born into the phalanstery,' he said gloomily ; but 

50 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

his face conveyed at once a far deeper and more pregnant 
meaning than his mere words could carry to the ear. 

The hierarch rose hastily and glanced into his dark keen 
eyes with an inquiring look. 'Not something amiss .-^ ' he 
said eagerly, with an infinite tenderness in his fatherly voice. 
' Don't tell me that, Eustace. Not. . . oh, not a child that 
the phalanstery must not for its own sake permit to live ! 
Oh, Eustace, not, I hope, idiotic ! And I gave my consent 
too ; I gave my consent for pretty gentle little Olive's sake ! 
Heaven grant I was not too much moved by her prettiness 
and her delicacy ; for I love her, Eustace, I love her like 
a daughter.' 

' So we all love the children of the phalanstery, Cyriac, we 
who are elder brothers,' said the physiologist gravely, half 
smiling to himself nevertheless at this quaint expression of 
old-world feeling on the part even of the very hierarch, 
whose bounden duty it was to advise and persuade a higher 
rule of conduct and thought than such antique phraseology 
implied. ' No, not idiotic ; not quite so bad as that, Cyriac ; 
not absolutely a hopeless case, but still, very serious and 
distressing for all that. The dear little baby has its feet 
turned inward. She '11 be a cripple for life, I fear, and no 
help for it.' 

Tears rose unchecked into the hierarch's soft grey eyes. 
' Its feet turned inward,' he muttered sadly, half to himself. 
' Feet turned inward ! Oh, how terrible ! This will be a 
frightful blow to Clarence and to Olive. Poor young things ! 
their first-born, too. Oh, Eustace, what an awful thought 
that, with all the care and precaution we take to keep all 
causes of misery away from the precincts of the phalanstery, 
such trials as this must needs come upon us by the blind 
workings of the unconscious Cosmos ! It is terrible, too 
terrible ! ' 

'And yet it isn't all loss,' the physiologist answered 
earnestly. ' It isn't all loss, Cyriac, heart-rending as the 

51 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

necessity seems to us. I sometimes think that if we hadn't 
these occasional distressful objects on which to expend our 
sympatliy and our sorrow, we in our happy little communities 
might grow too smug, and comfortable, and material, and 
earthly. But things like this bring tears into our eyes, and 
we are the better for them in the end, depend upon it, we 
are the better for them. They try our fortitude, our devo- 
tion to principle, our obedience to the highest and the 
hardest law. Every time some poor little waif like this is 
born into our midst, we feel the strain of old prephalansteric 
emotions and fallacies of feeling dragging us steadily and 
cruelly down. Our first impulse is to pity the poor mother, 
to pity the poor child, and in our mistaken kindness to let 
an unhappy life go on indefinitely to its own misery and the 
preventible distress of all around it. We have to make an 
effort, a struggle, before the higher and more abstract pity 
conquers the lower and more concrete one. But in the end 
we are all the better for it : and each such struggle and each 
such victory, Cyriac, paves the way for that final and truest 
morality when we shall do right instinctively and naturally, 
without any impulse on any side to do wrong in any way at all.' 

' You speak wisely, Eustace,' the hierarch answered with 
a sad shake of his head, ' and I wish I could feel like you. I 
ought to, but I can't. Your functions make you able to 
look more dispassionately upon these things than I can. 
I'm afraid there's a great deal of the old Adam lingering 
wrongfully in me yet. And I 'm still more afraid there 's a 
great deal of the old Eve lingering even more strongly in all 
our mothers. It'll be a long time, I doubt me, before 
they'll ever consent without a struggle to the painless 
extinction of necessarily unhappy and imperfect lives. A 
long time : a very long time. Does Clarence know of this 
yet.?' 

■^Yes, I have told him. His grief is tei-rible. You had 
better go and console him as best you can.' 
52 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

' I will, I will. And poor Olive ! Poor Olive ! It wrings 
my heart to think of her. Of course she won't be told of it, 
if you can help, for the probationary four decades ? ' 

'No, not if we can help it: but I don't know how it can 
ever be kept from her. She will see Clarence, and Clarence 
will certainly tell her,' 

The hierarch whistled gently to himself. 'It's a sad 
case,' he said ruefully ,^ 'a. very sad case ; and yet I don't see 
how we can possibly prevent it.' 

He walked slowly and deliberately into the anteroom 
where Clarence was seated on a sofa, his head between his 
hands, rocking himself to and fro in his mute misery, or 
stopping to groan now and then in a faint feeble inarticulate 
fashion. Rhoda, one of the elder sistei's, held the uncon- 
scious baby sleeping in her arms, and the hierarch took it 
from her like a man accustomed to infants, and looked 
ruefully at the poor distorted little feet. Yes, Eustace was 
evidently quite right. There could be no hope of ever 
putting those wee twisted ankles back straight and firm 
into their proper place again like other people's. 

He sat down beside Clarence on the sofa, and with a 
commiserating gesture removed the young man's hands 
from his pale white face. ' My dear, dear friend,' he said 
softly, 'what comfort or consolation can we try to give you 
that is not a cruel mockery } None, none, none. We can 
only sympathise with you and Olive : and perhaps, after all, 
the truest sympathy is silence.' 

Clarence answered nothing for a moment, but buried his 
face once more in his hands and burst into tears. The men 
of the phalanstery were less careful to conceal their emotions 
than we old-time folks in these early centuries. ' Oh, dear 
hierarch,' he said, after a long sob, ' it is too hard a sacrifice, 
too hard, too terrible ! I don't feel it for the baby's sake : 
for her 'tis better so : she will be freed from a life of misery 
and dependence; but for my own sake, and oh, above all, 

53 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

for dear Olive's ! It will kill her, hierarch ; I feel sure it 
will kill her ! ' 

The elder brother passed his hand with a troubled gesture 
across his forehead. ' But what else can we do, dear 
Clarence ? ' he asked pathetically. ' What else can we 
do } Would you have us bring up the dear child to lead 
a lingering life of misfortune, to distress the eyes of all 
around her, to feel herself a useless incumbrance in the 
midst of so many mutually helpful and serviceable and 
happy people .'' How keenly she would realise her own 
isolation in the joyous, busy, labouring community of our 
phalansteries ! How terribly she would brood over her own 
misfortune when surrounded by such a world of hearty, 
healthy, sound-limbed, useful persons ! Would it not be a 
wicked and a cruel act to bring her up to an old age of un- 
happiness and imperfection .'' You have been in Australia, 
my boy, when we sent you on that plant-hunting expedition, 
and you have seen cripples with your own eyes, no doubt, 
which I have never done — thank Heaven ! — I who have 
never gone beyond the limits of the most highly civilised 
Euramerican countries. You have seen cripples, in those 
semi-civilised old colonial societies, which have lagged after 
us so slowly in the path of progress ; and would you like 
your own daughter to grow up to such a life as that, 
Clarence } would you like her, I ask you, to grow up to such 
a life as that ? ' 

Clarence clenched his right hand tightly over his left arm, 
and answered with a groan, ' No, hierarch ; not even for 
Olive's sake could I wish for such an act of irrational in- 
justice. You have trained us up to know the good from 
the evil, and for no personal gratification of our deepest 
emotions, I hope and trust, shall we ever betray your teach- 
ing or depart from your principles. I know what it is : I 
saw just such a cripple once, at a great town in the heart of 
Central Australia — a child of eight years old, limping along 
54 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

lamely on her heels by her mother's side ; a sickening sight : 
to think of it even now turns the blood in one's arteries ; 
and I could never wish Olive's baby to live and grow up to 
be a thing like that. But, oh, I wish to heaven it might 
have been otherwise : I wish to heaven this trial might have 
been spared us both. Oh, hierarch, dear hierarch, the 
sacrifice is one that no good man or woman would wish 
selfishly to forgo ; yet for all that, our hearts, our hearts 
are human still ; and though we may reason and may act up 
to our reasoning, the human feeling in us — relic of the idol- 
atrous days, or whatever you like to call it — it will not choose 
to be so put down and stifled : it will out, hierarch, it will 
out for all that, in real hot, human tears. Oh, dear, dear 
kind father and brother, it will kill Olive : I know it will 
kill her ! ' 

' Olive is a good girl,' the hierarch answered slowly. ' A 
good girl, well brought up, and with sound principles. She 
will not flinch from doing her duty, I know, Clarence ; but 
her emotional nature is a very delicate one, and we have 
reason indeed to fear the shock to her nervous system. That 
she will do right bravely, I don't doubt : the only danger is 
lest the effort to do right should cost her too dear. What- 
ever can be done to spare her shall be done, Clarence. It 
is a sad misfortune for the whole phalanstery, such a child 
being born to us as this : and we all sympathise with 
you : we sympathise with you more deeply than words 
can say.' 

The young man only rocked up and down drearily as 
before, and murmured to himself, ' It will kill her, it will 
kill her ! My Olive, my Olive, I know it will kill her.' 



55 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 



IV 

They didn't keep the secret of the baby's crippled con- 
dition from Olive till the four decades were over, nor any- 
thing like it. The moment she saw Clarence, she guessed 
at once with a woman's instinct that something serious had 
happened ; and she didn't rest till she had found out from 
him all about it. Rhoda brought her the poor wee mite, 
carefully wrapped, after the phalansteric fashion, in a long 
strip of fine flannel, and Olive unrolled the piece until she came 
at last upon the small crippled feet, that looked so soft and 
tender and dainty and waxen in their very deformity. The 
young mother leant over the child a moment in speechless 
misery. 'Spirit of Humanity,' she whispered at length 
feebly, 'oh, give me strength to bear this terrible, unutterable 
trial ! It will break my heart. But I will try to bear it.' 

There was something so touching in her attempted resig- 
nation that Rhoda, for the first time in her life, felt almost 
tempted to wish she had been born in the old wicked pre- 
phalansteric days, when they would have let the poor baby 
grow up to womanhood as a matter of course, and bear its 
own burden through life as best it might. Presently, Olive 
raised her head again from the crimson silken pillow. 
' Clarence,' she said, in a trembling voice, pressing the 
sleeping baby hard against her breast, ' when will it be .'' 
How long } Is there no hope, no chance of respite ? ' 

'Not for a long time yet, dearest Olive,' Clarence 
answered through his tears. ' The phalanstery will be 
very gentle and patient with us, we know ; and brother 
Eustace will do everything that lies in his power, though 
he's afraid he can give us very little hope indeed. In any 
case, Olive darling, the community waits for four decades 
before deciding anything : it waits to see whether there is 
any chance for physiological or surgical relief, it decides 
56 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

nothing hastily or thoughtlessly : it waits for every possible 
improvement, hoping against hope till hope itself is hope- 
less. And then, if at the end of the quartet, as I fear will 
be the case — for we must face the worst, darling, we must 
face the worst — if at the end of the quartet it seems clear 
to brother Eustace, and the three assessor physiologists from 
the neighbouring phalansteries, that the dear child would be 
a cripple for life, we 're still allowed four decades more to 
prepare ourselves in : four whole decades more, Olive, to 
take our leave of the darling baby. You '11 have your baby 
with you for eighty days. And we must wean ourselves 
from her in that time, darling. We must try to wean our- 
selves. But oh Olive, oh Rhoda, it 's very hard : very, very, 
very hard.' 

Olive answered not a word, but lay silently weeping and 
pressing the baby against her breast, with her large brown 
eyes fixed vacantly upon the fretted woodwork of the 
panelled ceiling. 

'You mustn't do like that, Olive dear,' sister Rhoda said in 
a half-frightened voice. ' You must cry right out, and sob, 
and not restrain yourself, darling, or else you '11 break your 
heart with silence and repression. Do cry aloud, there 's a 
dear girl : do cry aloud and relieve yourself. A good cry 
would be the best thing on earth for you. And think, dear, 
how much happier it will really be for the sweet baby to 
sink asleep so peacefully than to live a long life of conscious 
inferiority and felt imperfection ! What a blessing it is to 
think you were born in a phalansteric land, where the dear 
child will be happily and painlessly rid of its poor little un- 
conscious existence, before it has reached the age when it 
might begin to know its own incurable and inevitable mis- 
fortune ! Oh, Olive, what a blessing that is, and how thank- 
ful we ought all to be that we live in a world where the 
sweet pet will be saved so much humiliation, and mortifica- 
tion, and misery ! ' 

57 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

At that moment, Olive, looking within into her own 
wicked, rebelUous heart, was conscious, with a mingled 
glow, half shame, half indignation, that so far from appreciat- 
ing the priceless blessings of her own situation, she would 
gladly have changed places then and there with any bar- 
baric woman of the old semi-civilised prephalansteric days. 
We can so little appreciate our own mercies. It was very 
wrong and anti-cosmic, she knew ; very wrong indeed, and 
the hierarch would have told her so at once ; but in her 
own woman's soul she felt she would rather be a miserable 
naked savage in a wattled hut, like those one saw in old 
books about Africa before the illumination, if only she could 
keep that one little angel of a crippled baby, than dwell 
among all the enlightenment, and knowledge, and art, and 
perfected social arrangements of phalansteric England with- 
out her child — her dear, helpless, beautiful baby. How 
truly the Founder himself had said, ' Think you there will 
be no more tragedies and dramas in the world when we 
have reformed it, nothing but one dreary dead level of mono- 
tonous content .'' Ay, indeed, there will ; for that, fear not ; 
while the heart of man remains, there will be tragedy 
enough on earth and to spare for a hundred poets to take 
for their saddest epics.' 

Olive looked up at Rhoda wistfully. ' Sister Rhoda,' she 
said in a timid tone, ' it may be very wicked — I feel sure it 
is — but do you know, I 've read somewhere in old stories of 
the unenlightened days that a mother always loved the 
most afflicted of her children the best. And I can under- 
stand it now, sister Rhoda ; I can feel it here,' and she put 
her hand upon her poor still heart. ' If only I could keep 
this one dear crippled baby, I could give up all the world 
beside — except you, Clarence.' 

' Oh, hush, darling ! ' Rhoda cried in an awed voice, 
stooping down half alarmed to kiss her pale forehead. 
'You mustn't talk like that, Olive dearest. It's wicked; 
58 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

it 's undutiful. I know how hard it is not to repine and to 
rebel ; but you mustn't, OHve, you mustn't. We must each 
strive to bear our own burdens (with the help of the com- 
munity), and not to put any of them off upon a poor, help- 
less, crippled little baby.' 

' But our natures,' Clarence said, wiping his eyes dreamily ; 
' our natures are only half attuned as yet to the necessities 
of the higher social existence. Of course it 's very wrong 
and very sad, but we can't help feeling it, sister Rhoda, 
though we try our hardest. Remember, it's not so many 
generations since our fathers would have reared the child 
without a thought that they were doing anything wicked — 
nay, rather, would even have held (so powerful is custom) 
that it was positively wrong to save it by preventive means 
from a certain life of predestined misery. Our conscience 
in this matter isn't yet fully formed. We feel that it's 
right, of course ; oh yes, we know the phalanstery has 
ordered everything for the best ; but we can't help grieving 
over it ; the human heart within us is too unregenerate still 
to acquiesce without a struggle in the dictates of right and 
reason.' 

Olive again said nothing, but fixed her eyes silently upon 
the grave, earnest portrait of the Founder over the carved 
oak mantelpiece, and let the hot tears stream their own way 
over her cold, white, pallid, bloodless cheek without reproof 
for many minutes. Her heart was too full for either speech 
or comfort. 



Eight decades passed away slowly in the Avondale Phal- 
anstery ; and day after day seemed more and more terrible 
to poor, weak, disconsolate Olive. The quiet refinement 
and delicate surroundings of their placid life seemed to 

59 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

make her poignant misery and long anxious term of waiting 
only the more intense in its sorrow and its awesomeness. 
Every day the younger sisters turned as of old to their 
allotted round of pleasant housework ; every day the elder 
sisters^ who had earned their leisure, brought in their dainty 
embroidery, or their drawing materials, or their other occu- 
pations, and tried to console her, or rather to condole with her, 
in her great sorrow. She couldn't complain of any unkind- 
ness ; on the contrary, all the brothers and sisters were 
sympathy itself; while Clarence, though he tried hard not 
to be loo idolatrous to her (which is wrong and antisocial, of 
course), was still overflowing with tenderness and considera- 
tion for her in their common grief. But all that seemed 
merely to make things worse. If only somebody would 
have been cruel to her ; if only the hierarch would have 
scolded her, or the elder sisters have shown any distant 
coldness, or the other girls have been wanting in sisterly 
sympathy, she might have got angry or brooded over her 
wrongs ; whereas, now, she could do nothing save cry 
passively with a vain attempt at resignation. It was 
nobody' s fault ; there was nobody to be angry with, there 
was nothing to blame except the great impersonal laws and 
circumstances of the Cosmos, which it would be rank im- 
piety and wickedness to question or to gainsay. So she 
endured in silence, loving only to sit with Clarence's hand 
in hers, and the dear doomed baby lying peacefully upon 
the stole in her lap. It was inevitable, and there was no use 
repining ; for so profoundly had the phalanstery schooled 
the minds and natures of those two unhappy young parents 
(and all their compeers), that grieve as they might, they 
never for one moment dreamt of attempting to relax or set 
aside the fundamental principles of phalansteric society in 
these matters. 

By the kindly rule of the phalanstery, every mother had 
complete freedom from household duties for two years after 
60 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

the birth of her child ; and Clarence, though he would not 
willingly have given up his own particular work in the 
grounds and garden, spent all the time he could spare from 
his short daily task (every one worked five hours every 
lawful day, and few worked longer, save on special emer- 
gencies) by Olive's side. At last, the eight decades passed 
slowly away, and the fatal day for the removal of little 
Rosebud arrived. Olive called her Rosebud because, she 
said, she was a sweet bud that could never be opened into 
a full-blown rose. All the community felt the solemnity 
of the painful occasion ; and by common consent the day 
(Darwin, December 20) was held as an intra-phalansteric 
fast by the whole body of brothers and sisters. 

On that terrible morning Olive rose early, and dressed 
herself carefully in a long white stole with a broad black 
border of Greek key pattern. But she had not the heart 
to put any black upon dear little Rosebud ; and so she put 
on her fine flannel wrapper, and decorated it instead with 
the pretty coloured things that Veronica and Philomela 
had worked for her, to make her baby as beautiful as 
possible on this its last day in a world of happiness. The 
other girls helped her and tried to sustain her, crying all 
together at the sad event. ' She 's a sweet little thing,' they 
said to one another as they held her up to see how she 
looked. ' If only it could have been her reception to-day 
instead of her removal ! ' But Olive moved through them 
all with stoical resignation — dry-eyed and parched in the 
throat, yet saying not a word save for necessary instructions 
and directions to the nursing sisters. The iron of her creed 
had entered into her very soul. 

After breakfast, brother Eustace and the hierarch came 
sadly in their official robes into the lesser infirmary. Olive 
was there already, pale and trembling, with little Rosebud 
sleeping peacefully in the hollow of her lap. What a 
picture she looked, the wee dear thing, with the hothouse 

61 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

flowers from the conservatory that Clarence had brought to 
adorn her fastened neatly on to her fine flannel robe ! The 
physiologist took out a little phial from his pocket, and began 
to open a sort of inhaler of white muslin. At the same 
moment, the grave, kind old hierarch stretched out his 
hands to take the sleeping baby from its mother's arms. 
Olive shrank back in terror, and clasped the child softly to 
her heart. 'No, no, let me hold her myself, dear hierarch/ 
she said, without flinching. * Grant me this one last favour. 
Let me hold her myself.' It was contrary to all fixed rules ; 
but neither the hierarch nor any one else there present had 
the heart to refuse that beseeching voice on so supreme and 
spirit-rending an occasion. 

Brother Eustace poured the chloroform solemnly and 
quietly on to the muslin inhaler. ' By resolution of the 
phalanstery/ he said, in a voice husky with emotion, 'I 
release you, Rosebud, from a life for which you are naturally 
unfitted. In pity for your hard fate, we save you from the 
misfortune you have never known, and will never now 
experience.' As he spoke he held the inhaler to the baby's 
face, and watched its breathing grow fainter and fainter, till 
at last, after a few minutes, it faded gradually and entirely 
away. The little one had slept from life into death, pain- 
lessly and happily, even as they looked. 

Clarence, tearful but silent, felt the baby's pulse for 
a moment, and then, with a burst of tears, shook his head 
bitterly. ' It is all over,' he cried with a loud cry. ' It is 
all over ; and we hope and trust it is better so.' 

But Olive still said nothing. 

The physiologist turned to her with an anxious gaze. 
Her eyes were open, but they looked blank and staring 
into vacant space. He took her hand, and it felt limp and 
powerless. ' Great heaven ! ' he cried, in evident alarm, 
' what is this > Olive, Olive, our dear Olive, why don't you 
speak ? ' 
62 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

Clarence sprang up from the ground, where he had knelt 
to try the dead baby's pulse, and took her unresisting wx-ist 
anxiously in his. ' Oh, brother Eustace,' he cried passion- 
ately, 'help us, save us; what's the matter with Olive? 
she 's fainting, she 's fainting ! I can't feel her heart beat, 
no, not ever so little.' 

Brother Eustace let the pale white hand drop listlessly 
from his grasp upon the pale white stole beneath, and 
answered slowly and distinctly : ' She isn't fainting, Clarence ; 
not fainting, my dear brother. The shock and the fumes of 
chloroform together have been too much for the action of 
the heart. She 's dead too, Clarence ; our dear, dear sister; 
she 's dead too.' 

Clarence flung his arms wildly round Olive's neck, and 
listened eagerly with his ear against her bosom to hear her 
heart beat. But no sound came from the folds of the simple 
black-bordered stole; no sound from anywhere save the 
suppressed sobs of the frightened women who huddled 
closely together in the corner, and gazed horror-stricken 
upon the two warm fresh corpses. 

' She was a brave girl,' brother Eustace said at last, wiping 
his eyes and composing her hands reverently. ' Olive was a 
brave girl, and she died doing her duty, without one 
murmur against the sad necessity that fate had unhappily 
placed upon her. No sister on earth could wish to 
die more nobly than by thus sacrificing her own life 
and her own weak human affections on the altar of 
humanity for the sake of her child and of the world at 
large.' 

'And yet, I sometimes almost fancy,' the hierarch mur- 
mured, with a violent effort to control his emotions, ' when I 
see a scene like this, that even the unenlightened practices 
of the old era may not have been quite so bad as we usually 
think them, for all that. Surely an end such as Olive's is a 
sad and a terrible end to have forced upon us as the final 

Q3 



THE CHILD OF THE PHALANSTERY 

outcome and natural close of all our modern phalansteric 
civilisation.' 

' The ways of the Cosmos are wonderful,' said brother 
Eustace solemnly ; ' and we, who are no more than atoms 
and mites upon the surface of its meanest satellite, cannot 
hope so to order all things after our own fashion that all 
its minutest turns and chances may approve themselves to 
us as right in our own eyes.' 

The sisters all made instinctively the reverential genu- 
flexion. ' The Cosmos is infinite/ they said together, in the 
fixed formula of their cherished religion. 'The Cosmos is 
infinite, and man is but a parasite upon the face of the least 
among its satellite members. May we so act as to further 
all that is best within us, and to fulfil our own small 
place in the system of the Cosmos with all becoming rever- 
ence and humility ! In the name of universal Humanity. 
So be it.' 



64 



IV 
THE ABBE'S REPENTANCE 



THE ABBJ^^S REPENTANCE 

Ivy Stanbury had never been in the South before. So 
everything burst full upon her with all the charm of novelty. 
As they reached Antibes Station, the sun was setting. A 
pink glow from his blood-red orb lit up the snowy ridge of 
the Maritime Alps with fairy splendour. It was a dream of 
delight to those eager young eyes, fresh from the fog and 
frost and brooding gloom of London. In front, the deep 
blue port, the long white mole, the picturesque lighthouse, 
the arcaded breakwater, the sea just flecked with russet 
lateen sails, the coasting craft that lay idle by the quays in 
the harbour. Further on, the mouldering grey town, en- 
closed in its mediaeval walls, and topped by its two tall 
towers: the square bastions and angles of Vauban's great 
fort : the laughing coast towards Nice, dotted over with 
white villages perched high among dark hills : and beyond 
all, soaring up into the cloudless sky, the phantom peaks 
of those sun-smitten mountains. No lovelier sight can eye 
behold round the enchanted Mediterranean : what wonder 
Ivy Stanbury gazed at it that first night of her sojourn in the 
South with unfeigned admiration ? 

' It 's beautiful,' she broke forth, drawing a deep breath as 
she spoke, and gazing up at the clear-cut outlines of the 
Cime de Mercantourn. ' More beautiful than anything I 
could have imagined, almost.' 

But Aunt Emma was busy looking after the luggage, 
registered through from London. ' Quatre colis, all told, and 

67 



THE abb:^^s repentance 

then the rugs and the hold-all ! Maria should have fastened 
those straps more securely. And \vhei*e 's the black bag ? 
And the thing with the etna ? And mind you take care of 
my canary. Ivy.' 

Ivy stood still and gazed. So like a vision did those 
dainty pink summits, all pencilled with dark glens, hang 
mystic in the air. To think about luggage at such a moment 
as this was, to her, sheer desecration. And how wine- 
colom*ed was the dark sea in the evening light : and how 
antique the grey Greek town : and how delicious the sun- 
set ! The snowiest peaks of all stood out now in the very 
hue of the pinky nacre that lines a shell : the shadows of 
the gorges that scored their smooth sides showed up in 
delicate tints of pale green and dark purple. Ivy drew a 
deep breath again, and clutched the bird-cage silently. 

The long drive to the hotel across the olive-clad promon- 
tory, between bay and bay, was one continuous joy to her. 
Here and there rocky inlets opened out for a moment 
to right or left, hemmed in by tiny crags, where the blue 
sea broke in milky foam upon weather-beaten skerries. 
Coquettish white villas gleamed rosy in the setting sun 
among tangled gardens of strange shrubs, whose very names 
Ivy knew not — date-palms, and fan-palms, and eucalyptus, 
and mimosa, and green Mediterranean pine, and tall flowering 
agave. At last, the tired horses broke into a final canter, 
and drew up before the broad stairs of the hotel on the 
headland. A vista through the avenue revealed to Ivy's 
eyes a wide strip of sea, and beyond it again the jagged 
outline of the Esterel, most exquisitely shaped of earthly 
mountains, silhouetted in deep blue against the fiery red 
of a sky just fading from the afterglow into profound dark- 
ness. 

She could hardly dress for dinner, for looking out of the 
window. Even in that dim evening light, the view across 
the bay was too exquisite to be neglected. 
68 



THE ABBA'S REPENTANCE 

However, by dint of frequent admonitions from Aunt 
Emmjij through the partition door, she managed at last to 
rummage out her little white evening dress — a soft nun's- 
cloth, made full in the bodice— and scrambled through in 
the nick of time, as the dinner-bell was ringing. 

Table d'hote was fairly full. Most of the guests were 
ladies. But to Ivy's surprise, and perhaps even dismay, she 
found herself seated next a tall young man in the long 
black cassock of a Catholic priest, with a delicate pale face, 
very austere and clear-cut. This was disconcerting to Ivy, 
for, in the English way, she had a vague feeling in her mind 
that priests, after all, were not quite human. 

The tall young man, however, turned to her after a 
minute's pause with a frank and pleasant smile, which 
seemed all at once to bespeak her sympathy. He had an 
even row of white teeth, Ivy observed, and thin, thoughtful 
lips, and a cultivated air, and the mien of a gentleman. 
Cardinal Manning must surely have looked like that when 
he was an Anglican curate. So austere was the young man's 
face, yet so gentle, so engaging. 

' Mademoiselle has just arrived to-day ? ' he said 
interrogatively, in the pure, sweet French of the Fau- 
bourg Saint-Germain. Ivy could see at a glance he felt she 
was shy of him, and was trying to reassure her. ' What 
a beautiful sunset we 've had ! What light ! What 
colour ! ' 

His voice rang so soft that Ivy plucked up heart of 
grace to answer him boldly in her own pretty variation of 
the Ollendorffian dialect, 'Yes, it was splendid, splendid. 
This is the first time I visit the Mediterranean, and 
coming from the cold North, its beauty takes my breath 
away.' 

' Mademoiselle is French, then ? ' the young priest asked, 
with the courtly flattery that sits so naturally on his 
countrymen. ' No, English ? Really ! And nevertheless 

Q9 



THE ABBA'S REPENTANCE 

you speak with a charming accent. But all English ladies 
speak French to-day. Yes, this place is lovely : nothing 
lovelier on the coast. I went up this evening to the 
hill that forms the centre of our little promontory ' 

'The hill with the lighthouse that we passed on our 
way ? ' Ivy asked, proud at heart that she could remember 
the word pkare off-hand, without reference to the dictionary. 

The Abbe bowed. ' Yes, the hill with the lighthouse,' 
he answered, hardly venturing to correct her by making 
pkare masculine. ' There is there a sanctuary of Our Lady 
— Notre-Dame de la Garoupe,— and I mounted up to it by 
the Chemin de la Croix, to make my devotions. And after 
spending a little half-hour all alone in the oratory, I went 
out upon the platform, and sat at the foot of the cross, and 
looked before me upon the view. Oh, mademoiselle, how 
shall I say .'' it was divine ! it was beautiful ! The light from 
the setting sun touched up those spotless temples of the 
eternal snow with the rosy radiance of an angel's wing. It 
was a prayer in marble. One would think the white and 
common daylight, streaming through some dim cathedral 
window, made rich with figures, was falling in crimson 
palpitations on the clasped hands of some alabaster saint — 
so glorious was it, so beautiful ! ' 

Ivy smiled at his enthusiasm : it was so like her own — 
and yet, oh, so different ! But she admired the young Abbe, 
all the same, for not being ashamed of his faith. What 
English curate would have dared to board a stranger like 
that — -with such a winning confidence that the stranger 
would share his own point of view of things .'' And then 
the touch of poetry that he threw into it all was so deli- 
cately mediaeval. Ivy looked at him and smiled again. 
The priest had certainly begun by ci'eating a favourable 
impression. 

All through dinner, her new acquaintance talked to her 
uninterruptedly. Ivy was quite charmed to see how far her 
70 



THE ABBA'S REPENTANCE 

meagre French would carry her. And her neighbour was 
so polite, so grave, so attentive. He never seemed to notice 
her mistakes of gender, her little errors of tense or mood or 
syntax; he caught rapidly at what she meant when she 
paused for a word : he finished her sentences for her better 
than she could have done them herself: he never suggested, 
he never corrected, he never faltered, but he helped her 
out, as it were, unconsciously, without ever seeming to help 
her. In a word, he had the manners of a born gentleman, 
with the polish and the grace of good French society. And 
then, whatever he said was so interesting and so well put. 
A tinge of Celtic imagination lighted up all his talk. He was 
well read in his own literature, and in English and German 
too. Nothing could have been more unlike Ivy's pre- 
conceived idea of the French Catholic priest — the rotund 
and rubicund village cure. The man was tall, slim, 
pathetic, poetical-looking, with piercing black eyes, and 
features of striking and statuesque beauty. But above all. 
Ivy felt now that he was earnest, and human — intensely 
human. 

Once only, when conversation rose loud across the table, 
the Abbe ventured to ask, with bated breath, in a candid 
tone of inquiry, ' Mademoiselle is Catholic ? ' 

Ivy looked down at her plate as she answered in a timid 
voice, ' No, monsieur, Anglican.' Then she added, half 
apologetically, with a deprecating smile, ' 'Tis the religion 
of my country, you know.' For she feared she shocked 
him. 

' Perfectly,' the Abbe answered, with a sweet smile of 
resigned regret ; and he murmured something half to 
himself in the Latin tongue, which Ivy didn't understand. 
It was a verse from the Vulgate, ' Other sheep have I 
which are not of this fold : them also will I bring in.' For 
he was a tolerant man, though devout, that Abbe, and 
Mademoiselle was charming. Had not even the Church 

71 



THE abb:^'s repentance 

itself held that Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, I know not how 
many more — and then, Mademoiselle no doubt erred through 
ignorance of the Faith, and the teaching of her parents ! 

After dinner they strolled out into the great entrance- 
hall. The Abbe, with a courtly bow, went off, half reluctant, 
in another direction. On a table close by, the letters that 
came by the evening post lay displayed in long rows for 
visitors to claim their own. With true feminine curiosity, 
Ivy glanced over the names of her fellow-guests. One 
struck her at once — ' M. lAbbe de Kermadec' 'That 
must be our priest, Aunt Emma,' she said, looking close at 
it. And the English barrister with the loud voice, who 
sat opposite her at table, made answer, somewhat bluffly, 
' Yes, that 's the priest, M. Guy de Kermadec. You can see 
with half an eye he 's above the common ruck of 'em. Be- 
longs to a very distinguished Breton family, so I 'm told. 
Of late years, you know, there 's been a reaction in France 
in favour of piety. It 's the mode to be devot. The Royalists 
think religion goes hand in hand with legitimacy. So several 
noble families send a younger son into the Church now 
again, as before the Revolution — make a decorative Abbe of 
him. It 's quite the thing, as times go. The eldest son of 
the Kermadecs is a marquis, I believe — one of their trumpexy 
marquee's — has a chateau in Morbihan — the second son 's in 
a cavalry regiment, and serves La France ; the third 's in the 
Church, and saves the souls of the family. That 's the way 
they do now. Division of labour, don't you see ! Number 
one plays, number two fights, number three prays. Land, 
army, piety.' 

' Oh, indeed,' Ivy answered, shrinking into her shell at 
once. She didn't know why, but it jarred upon her some- 
how to hear the English barrister with the loud bluff voice 
speak like that about her neighbour. M. Guy de Kermadec 
was of gentler mould, she felt sure, than the barrister's coarse 
red hands should handle. 
72 



THE ABBE'S REPENTANCE 

They stayed there some weeks. Aunt Emma's lungs 
were endowed with a cavity. So Aunt Emma did little but 
sun herself on the terrace, and chirp to the canary, and look 
across at the Esterel. But Ivy was strong, her limbs were 
a tomboy's, and she wandered about by herself to her heart's 
content over that rocky peninsula. On her first morning at 
the Cape, indeed, she strolled out alone, following a footpath 
that led through a green strip of pine-wood, fragrant on 
either side with lentisk scrub and rosemary. It brought 
her out upon the sea, near the very end of the promontory, 
at a spot where white rocks, deeply honeycombed by the 
ceaseless spray of centuries, lay tossed in wild confusion, 
stack upon stack, rent and fissured. Low bushes, planed 
level by the wind, sloped gradually upward. A douanier's 
trail threaded the rugged maze. Ivy turned to the left 
and followed it on, well pleased, past huge tors and deep 
gullies. Here and there, taking advantage of the tilt 
of the strata, the sea had worn itself great caves and 
blow-holes. A slight breeze was rolling breakers up these 
miniature gorges. Ivy stood and watched them tumble 
in, the deep peacock blue of the outer sea changing at 
once into white foam as they curled over and shattered 
themselves on the green slimy reefs that blocked their 
progress. 

By and by she reached a spot where a clump of tall aloes, 
with prickly points, grew close to the edge of the rocks 
in true African luxuriance. Just beyond them, on the brink, 
a man sat bareheaded, his legs dangling over a steep under- 
mined cliff. The limestone was tilted up there at such an 
acute angle that the crag overhung the sea by a yard or two, 
and waves dashed themselves below into a thick rain of 
spray without wetting the top. Ivy had clambered half out 
to the edge before she saw who the man was. Then he 
turned his head at the sound of her footfall, and sprang to 
his feet hastily. 

73 



THE ABB^^S REPENTANCE 

' Take care, mademoiselle/ he said, holding his round hat 
in his left hand, and stretching out his right to steady her. 
' Such spots as these are hardly meant for skirts like yours — 
or mine. One false step, and over you go. I 'm a pretty 
strong swimmer myself — our Breton sea did so much for me ; 
but no swimmer on earth could live against the force of 
those crushing breakers. They 'd catch a man on their 
crestSj and pound him to a jelly on the jagged needles of 
rock. They 'd hurl him on to the crumbling pinnacles, and 
then drag him back with their undertow, and crush him at 
last, as in a gigantic mortar, till every trait, every feature, 
was indistinguishable.' 

' Thank you,' Ivy answered, taking his proffered hand as 
innocently as she would have taken her father's curate's. 
'It's just beautiful out here, isn't it.''' She seated herself 
on the ledge near the spot where he had been sitting. ' How 
grandly the waves roll in ! ' she cried, eyeing them with 
girlish delight. ' Do you come here often, M. I'Abbe .'' ' 

The Abbe gazed at her, astonished. How strange are 
the ways of these English ! He was a priest, to be sure, a 
celibate by profession; but he was young, he was handsome 
— he knew he was good-looking ; and mademoiselle was 
unmarried ! This chance meeting embarrassed him, to say 
the truth, far more than it did Ivy — though Ivy too was shy, 
and a little conscious blush that just tinged her soft cheek, 
made her look, the Abbe noted, even prettier than ever. 
But still, if he was a priest, he was also a gentleman. So, 
after a moment's demur, he sat down, a little way off — 
further off, indeed, than the curate would have thought it 
necessary to sit from her — and answered very gravely in 
that soft low voice of his, ' Yes, I come here often, very 
often. It 's my favourite seat. On these rocks one seems 
to lose sight of the world and the work of man's hand, and 
to stand face to face with the eternal and the infinite.' 
He waved his arm, as he spoke, towards the horizon, vaguely. 
74 



THE abb:^'s repentance 

' I like it for its wildness/ Ivy said simply. * These crags 
are so beautiful.' 

' Yes/ the young priest answered, looking across at them 
pensively, ' I like to think, for my part, that for thousands 
of years the waves have been dashing against them, day 
and night, night and day, in a ceaseless rhythm, since the 
morning of the creation. I like to think that before ever 
a Phocsean galley steered its virgin trip into the harbour of 
Antipolis, this honeycombing had begun ; that when the Holy 
Maries of the Sea passed by our Cape on their miraculous 
voyage to the mouths of the Rhone, they saw this headland, 
precisely as we see it to-day, on their starboard bow, all 
weather-eaten and weather-beaten.' 

Ivy lounged with her feet dangling over the edge, as the 
Abbe had done before. The Abbe sat and looked at her in 
fear and trembling. If mademoiselle were to slip, now. 
His heart came up in his mouth at the thought. He was 
a priest, to be sure ; but at seven-and-twenty, mark you 
well, even priests are human. They, too, have hearts. 
Anatomically they resemble the rest of their kind ; it is 
only the cassock that makes the outer difference. 

But Ivy sat talking in her imperfect French, with very 
little sense of how much trouble she was causing him. 
She didn't know that the Abbe, too, trembled on the very 
brink of a precipice. But his was a moral one. By and by 
she rose. The Abbe stretched out his hand, and lent it to 
her politely. He could do no less; yet the touch of her 
ungloved fingers thrilled him. What a pity so fair a lamb 
should stray so far from the true fold ! Had Our Lady 
brought him this chance .'' Was it his duty to lead her, to 
guide her, to save her ? 

' Which is the way to the lighthouse hill .-* ' Ivy asked 
him carelessly. 

The words seemed to his full heart like a sacred omen. 
For on the lighthouse hill, as on all high places in Provence, 

75 



THE ABBESS REPENTANCE 

stood also a lighthouse of the soul, a sanctuary of Our Lady, 
that Noti*e-Dame de la Garoupe whereof he had told her 
yesterday. And of her own accord she had asked the way 
now to Our Lady's shrine. He would guide her like a 
beacon. This was the finger of Providence. Sure, Our 
Lady herself had put the thought into the heart of her. 

'I go that way myself/ he said, rejoicing. 'If made- 
moiselle will allow me, I will show her the path. Every day 
I go up thei'e to make my devotions.' 

As they walked by the seaward trail, and climbed the 
craggy little hill, the Abbe discoursed very pleasantly about 
many things. Not religion alone ; he was a priest, but no 
bigot. An enthusiast for the sea, as becomes a Morbihan 
man, he loved it from every point of view, as swimmer, 
yachtsman, rower, landscape artist. His talk was of dangers 
confronted on stormy nights along the Ligurian coast ; of 
voyages to Corsica, to the Channel Islands, to Bilbao ; of 
great swims about Sark ; of climbs among the bare summits 
over yonder by Turbia. And he was wide-minded too ; for 
he spoke with real affection of a certain neighbour of theirs 
in Morbihan ; he was proud of the great writer's pure Breton 
blood, though he deprecated his opinions — ' But he 's so 
kind and good after all, that dear big Renan ! ' Ivy started 
with surprise ; not so had she heard the noblest living master 
of French prose discussed and described in their Warwick- 
shire rectory. But every moment she saw yet clearer that 
anything more unlike her preconceived idea of a Catholic 
priest than this ardent young Celt could hardly be imagined. 
Fervent and fervid, he led the conversation like one who 
spoke with tongues. For herself she said little by the way ; 
her French halted sadly ; but she listened with real pleasure 
to the full flowing stream of the young man's discourse. 
After all, she knew now, he was a young man at least — not 
human alone, but vivid and virile as well, in spite of his 
petticoats. 
76 



THE ABBESS REPENTANCE 

People forget too often that putting on a soutane doesn't 
necessarily make a strong nature feminine. 

At the top of the lighthouse hill Ivy paused, delighted 
Worlds opened before her. To right and left, in rival beauty, 
spread a glorious panorama. She stood and gazed at it 
entranced. She had plenty of time indeed to drink in to 
the full those two blue bays, with their contrasted mountain 
barriers — snowy Alps to the east, purple Esterel to westward 
— for the Abbe had gone into the rustic chapel to make his 
devotions. When he came out again, curiosity tempted Ivy 
for a moment into that bare little whitewashed barn. It 
was a Proven9al fisher shrine of the rudest antique type ; its 
gaudy Madonna, tricked out with paper flowers, stood under 
a crude blue canopy, set with tinsel-gilt stars ; the rough 
walls hung thick with ex-voto's of coarse and naive execu- 
tion. Here, sailors in peril emerged from a watery grave by 
the visible appearance of Our Lady issuing in palpable wood 
from a very solid cloud of golden glory ; there, a gig going 
down hill was stopped forcibly from above with hands laid 
on the reins by Our Lady in person; and yonder, again, a 
bursting gun did nobody any harm, for had not Our Lady 
caught the fragments in her own stiff fingers ? Ivy gazed 
with a certain hushed awe at these nascent eiforts of art ; 
such a gulf seemed to yawn between that tawdry little 
oratory and the Abbe's own rich and cultivated nature. Yet 
he went to pray there ! 

For the next three weeks Ivy saw much of M. Guy de 
Kermadec. She taught him lawn-tennis, which he learned, 
indeed, with ease. At first, to be sure, the English in the 
hotel rather derided the idea of lawn-tennis in a cassock. 
But the Abbe was an adept at the jeu de paiime, which had 
already educated his hand and eye, and he dropped into the 
new game so quickly, in spite of the soutaiie, which sadly im- 
peded his running, that even the Cambridge undergraduate 
with the budding moustache was forced to acknowledge ' the 

77 



THE ABBlfi'S REPENTANCE 

Frenchy ' a formidable competitor. And then Ivy met him 
often in his strolls round the coast. He used to sit and 
sketch among the rocks, perched high on the most inacces- 
sible pinnacles ; and Ivy, it must be admitted, though she 
hardly knew why herself — so innocent is youth, so too dan- 
gerously innocent — ^went oftenest by the paths where she 
was likeliest to meet him. There she would watch the pro- 
gress of his sketch, and criticise and admire ; and in the end, 
when she rose to go, native politeness made it impossible for 
the Abbe to let her walk home unprotected, so he accom- 
panied her back by the coast path to the hotel garden. Ivy 
hardly noticed that as he reached it he almost invariably 
lifted his round hat at once and dismissed her, unofficially as 
it were, to the society of her compatriots. But the Abbe, 
more used to the ways of the world and of France, knew 
well how unwise it was of him — a man of the Church — to 
walk with a young girl alone so often in the country. A 
priest should be circumspect. 

Day after day, slowly, very slowly, the truth began to 
dawn by degrees upon the Abbe de Kerraadec that he was 
in love with Ivy. At first, he fought the idea tooth and 
nail, like an evil vision. He belonged to the Church, the 
Bride of Heaven : what had such as he to do with mere 
carnal desires and earthly longings ? But day by day, as Ivy 
met him, and talked with him more confidingly, her French 
growing more fluent by leaps and bounds under that able 
tutor Love, whose face as yet she recognised not — nature 
began to prove too strong for the Abbe's resolution. He 
found her company sweet. The position was so strange, 
and to him so incomprehensible. If Ivy had been a French 
girl, of course he could never have seen so much of her : her 
mother or her maid would have mounted guard over her 
night and day. Only with a married woman could he have 
involved himself so deeply in France : and then, the sinful- 
ness of their intercourse would have been clear from the 
78 



THE ABBA'S REPENTANCE 

very outset to both alike of them. But what charmed and 
attracted him most in Ivy was just her Enghsh innocence. 
She was so gentle, so guileless. This pure creature of God's 
never seemed to be aware she was doing grievously wrong. 
The man who had voluntarily resigned all hope or chance of 
chaste love was now irresistibly led on by the very force of 
the spell he had renounced for ever. 

And yet — how hard it is for us to throw ourselves com- 
pletely into somebody else's attitude ! So French was he, so 
Catholic, that he couldn't quite understand the full depth of 
Ivy's innocence. This girl who could walk and talk so freely 
with a priest — surely she must be aware of what thing she 
was doing. She must know she was leading him and her- 
self into a dangerous love, a love that could end in none but 
a guilty conclusion. 

So thinking, and praying, and fighting against it, and 
despising himself, the young Abbe yet persisted half un- 
awares on the path of destruction. His hot Celtic imagina- 
tion proved too much for his self-control. All night long 
he lay awake, tossing and turning on his bed, alternately 
muttering fervent prayers to Our Lady, and building up for 
himself warm visions of his next meeting with Ivy. In the 
morning, he would rise up early, and go afoot to the shrine 
of Notre-Dame de la Garoupe, and cry aloud with fiery zeal 
for help, that he might be delivered from temptation : — and 
then he would turn along the coast, towards his accustomed 
seat, looking out eagerly for the rustle of Ivy's dress among 
the cistus-bushes. When at last he met her, a great wave 
passed over him like a blush. He thrilled from head to foot. 
He grew cold. He trembled inwardly. 

Not for nothing had he lived near the monastery of St. 
Gildas de Rhuys. For such a Heloise as that, what priest 
would not gladly become a second Abelard .^ 

One morning, he met her by his overhanging ledge. The 
sea was rough. The waves broke grandly. 

79 



THE ABBA'S REPENTANCE 

Ivy came up to him, with that conscious bhish of hers just 
manthng her fair cheek. She Hked him very much. But 
she was only eighteen. At eighteen a girl hardly knows 
when she 's in love. But she vaguely suspects it. 

The Abbe held out his hand. Ivy took it with a frank 
smile. ' Bonjour, M. de Kermadec ! ' she said lightly. She 
always addressed him so — not as M. FAbbe, now. Was 
that intentional, he wondered .'' He took it to mean that 
she tried to forget his ecclesiastical position. ' La tante 
Emma ' should guard her treasure in an eai'then vessel more 
carefully. Why do these Protestants tempt us priests with 
their innocent girls ? He led her to a seat, and gazed at her 
like a lover, his heart beating hard, and his knees trembling 
violently. He jnust speak to her to-day. Though 7v/iaf, he 
knew not. 

He meant her no harm. He was too passionate, too pure, 
too earnest for that. But he meant her no good either. 
He meant nothing, nothing. Before her face he was a bark 
driven rudderless by the breeze. He only knew he loved 
her : she must be his. His passion hallowed his act. And 
she too, she loved him. 

Leaning one hand on the rock, he talked to her for a while, 
he hardly knew what. He saw she was tremulous. She 
looked down and blushed often. That intangible, incom- 
prehensible, invisible something that makes lovers subtly 
conscious of one another's mood had told her how he felt 
towards her. She tingled to the finger-tips. It was sweet 
to be there— oh, how sweet, yet how hopeless ! 

Romance to her : to him, sin, death, infamy. 

At last he leaned across to her. She had answered him 
back once more about some trifle, ' Mais, oui, M. de Kerma- 
dec' ' Why this " monsieur " .^ ' the priest asked boldly, 
gazing deep into her startled eyes. ' Je m'appelle Guy, 
mademoiselle. Why not Guy then — Ivy ? ' 

At the word her heart gave a bound. He had said it ! 
80 



THE ABB^^S REPENTANCE 

He had said it ! He loved her ; oh, how delicious ! She 
could have cried for joy at that implied avowal. 

But she drew herself up for all that^ like a pure-minded 
English girl that she was, and answered with a red flush, 
' Because — it would be wrong, monsieur. You know very 
well, as things are, I cannot.' 

What a flush ! what a halo ! Madonna and vows were all 
forgotten now. The Abbe flung himself forward in one wild 
burst of passion. He gazed in her eyes, and all was lost. 
His hot Celtic soul poured itself forth in full flood. He 
loved her : he adored her : she should be his and his only. 
He had fought against it. But love — love had conquered. 
'Oh, Ivy,' he cried passionately, 'you will not refuse me! 
You will be mine and mine only. You will love me as I love 
you ! ' 

Ivy's heart broke forth too. She looked at him and 
melted. ' Guy,' she answered, first framing the truth to 
herself in that frank confession, ' I love you in return. I 
have loved you since the very first moment I saw you.' 

The Abbe seized her hand, and raised it rapturously to 
his lips. ' My beloved,' he cried, rosy red, ' you are mine, 
you are mine — and I am yours for ever.' 

Ivy drew back a little, somewhat abashed and alarmed 
by his evident ardour. ' I wonder if I 'm doing wrong ? ' 
she cried, with the piteous uncertainty of early youth. 
' Your vows, you know ! your vows ! How will you ever get 
rid of them .'' ' 

The Abbe gazed at her astonished. What could this 
angel mean .'' She wondered if she was doing wrong ! Get 
rid of his vows ! He, a priest, to make love ! What naivete ! 
What innocence ! 

But he was too hot to repent. 'My vows!' he cried, fling- 
ing them from him with both hands into the sea. ' Ivy, let 
them go ! Let the waves bear them off" ! What are they to 
me now ? I renounce them ! I have done with them ! ' 
F 81 



THE ABBKS REPENTANCE 

Ivy looked at him, breathing deep. Why, he loved her 
indeed. For she knew how devoted he was, how earnest, 
how Catholic. 'Then you'll join our Church,' she said 
simply, ' and give up your orders and marry me ! ' 

If a thunderbolt had fallen at the young priest's feet, its 
effect could not have been more crushing, more instan- 
taneous, more extraordinary. In a moment, he had come 
to himself again, cooled, astonished, horrified. Oh, what 
had he said .'' What had he done ? What vile sin had he 
committed .'' Not against Heaven, now, or the saints, for of 
that and his own soul he thought just then but little : but 
against that pure young girl whom he loved, that sweet 
creature of innocence ! And how could he ever explain to 
her .'' How retract .'' How excuse himself.'' Even to at- 
tempt an explanation would be sheer treason to her purity. 
The thought in his mind was too unholy for her to hear. 
To tell her what he meant would be a crime, a sin, a 
bassesse ! 

He saw it in an instant, how the matter would envisage 
itself to her un-Catholic mind. She could never understand 
that to him, a single fall, a temporary backsliding, was but a 
subject for repentance, confession, absolution, pardon : while 
to renounce his orders, renounce his Church, contract a 
marriage that in his eyes would be no marriage at all, but a 
living lie, was to continue in open sin, to degrade and dis- 
honour her. For her own sake, even, if saints and Madonna 
were not, Guy de Kermadec could never consent so to taint 
and to sully her. That pure soul was too dear to him. He 
had dreamed for a moment, indeed, of foul wrong, in the 
white heat of passion : all men may be misled for a moment 
of impulse by the strong demon within them : but to per- 
severe in such wrong, to go on sinning openly, flagrantly, 
shamelessly — Guy de Kermadec drew back from the bare 
idea with disdain. As priest and as gentleman alike, he 
looked down upon it and contemned it. 
82 



THE ABBjfi S REPENTANCE 

The reaction was profound. For a minute or two he 
gazed into Ivy's face like one spellbound. He paused and 
hesitated. What way out of this maze .'' How on earth 
could he undeceive her ? Then suddenly, with a loud cry, 
he sprang to his feet like one shot, and stood up by the edge 
of the rocks in his long black soulane. He held out his hands 
to raise her. ' Mademoiselle,' he groaned aloud from his 
heart, in a very broken tone, ' I have done wrong — ginevous 
wrong : I have sinned — against Heaven and against you, and 
am no more worthy to be called a priest.' He raised his 
voice solemnly. It was the voice of a bi'uised and wounded 
creature. ' Go back ! ' he cried once more, waving her away 
from him as from one polluted. ' You can never forgive 
me. But at least, go back. I should have cut out my 
tongue rather than have spoken so to you. I am a leper 
— a wild beast. Ten thousand times over, I crave your 
pardon.' 

Ivy gazed at him, thunderstruck. In her innocence, she 
hardly knew what the man even meant. But she saw her 
romance had toppled over to its base, and shattered itself to 
nothing. Slowly she rose, and took his hand across the 
rocks to steady her. They reached the track in silence. 
As they gained it, the Abbe raised his hat for the last time, 
and turned away bitterly. He took the path to the right. 
Obedient to his gesture, Ivy went to the left. Back to the 
hotel she went, lingering, with a heart like a stone, locked 
herself up in her own room, and cried long and silently. 

But as for Guy de Kermadec, all on fire with his remorse, 
he walked fast along the sea-shore, over the jagged rock path, 
toward the town of Antibes. 

Through the narrow streets of the old city he made his 
way, like a blind man, to the house of a priest whom he 
knew. His heart was seething now with regret and shame 
and horror. What vile thing was this wherewith he, a priest 
of God, had ventured to affront the pure innocence of a 



THE ABBE'S REPENTANCE 

maiden ? What unchastity had he forced on the chaste eyes 
of girlhood ? Ivy had struck him dumb by her very freedom 
from all guile. And it was she, the heretic, for whose soul 
he had wrestled in prayer with Our Lady, who had brought 
him back with a bound to the consciousness of sin, and the 
knowledge of purity, from the very brink of a precipice. 

He knocked at the door of his friend's house like a moral 
leper. 

His brother-priest received him kindly. Guy de Kerma- 
dec was pale, but his manner was wild, like one mad with 
frenzy. ' Mon pere,' he said straight out, ' I have come to 
confess, i?i articido mortis. I feel I shall die to-night. I have 
a warning from Our Lady. I ask you for absolution, a bless- 
ing, the holy sacrament, extreme unction. If you refuse 
them, I die. Give me God at your peril.' 

The elder priest hesitated. How could he give the host 
otherwise than to a person fasting } How administer ex- 
treme unction save to a dying man .'' But Guy de Kermadec, 
in his fiery haste, overbore all scrupulous ecclesiastical objec- 
tions. He was a dying man, he cried : Our Lady's own 
warning was surely more certain than the guess or conjecture 
of a mere earthly doctor. The viaticum he demanded, and 
the viaticum he must have. He was to die that night. He 
knew it. He was sure of it. 

He knelt down and confessed. He would brook no re- 
fusal. The country priest, all amazed, sat and listened to 
him, breathless. Once or twice he drew his sleek hand over 
his full fat face doubtfully. The strange things this hot 
Breton said to him were beyond his comprehension. They 
spoke different languages. How could he, good easy soul, 
with his cut-and-dried theology, fathom the fiery depths of 
that volcanic bosom .'* He nursed his chin in suspense, and 
marvelled. Other priests had gone astray. Why this wild 
fever of repentance .'' Other women had been tempted. 
Why this passionate tenderness for the sensibilities of a mere 
84 



THE abb:^'s repentance 

English heretic ? Other girls had sinned outright. Why 
this horror at the harm done to her in intention only ? 

But to Guy de Kermadec himself it was a crime of Icse- 
majesle against a young girl's purity. A crime whose very 
nature it would be criminal to explain to her. A crime that 
he could only atone with his life. Apology was impossible. 
Explanation was treason. Nothing remained for it now but 
the one resource of silence. 

In an orgy of penitence^ the young priest confessed, and 
received absolution : he took the viaticum, trembling ; he 
obtained extreme unction. Then, with a terrible light in 
his eyes, he went into a stationer's shop, and in tremulous 
lines wrote a note, which he posted to Ivy. 

' Tres chere dame,' it said simply, ' you will see me no 
more. This morning, I offered, half unawares, a very great 
wrong to you. Your own words, and Our Lady's interven- 
tion, brought me back to myself. Thank Heaven, it was in 
time. I might have wronged you more. My last prayers 
are for your pure soul. Pray for mine and forgive me. 
Adieu ! Guy de Kermadec' 

After that, he strode out to the Cape once more. It was 
growing dark by that time, for he was long at Antibes. He 
walked with fiery eagerness to the edge of the cliiF, where 
he had sat with joy that morning — where he had sat before 
so often. The brink of the rocks was wet with salt spray, 
very smooth and slippery. The Abbe stood up, and looked 
over at the black water. The Church makes suicide a sin, 
and he would obey the Church. But no canon prevents one 
from leaning over the edge of a cliff, to admire the dark 
waves. They rolled in with a thud, and broke in sheets of 
white spray against the honeycombed base of the rock, in- 
visible beneath him. 

' Si dextra tua tibi offenderit,' they said, in their long slow 

85 



THE ABBA'S REPENTANCE 

chant — 'si dextra tua tibi offenderit.' If thy right hand 
offend thee, cut it off. And Ivy was dearer to him than his 
own right hand. Yet not for that, oh Mary, Star of the Sea, 
not for that ; nor yet for his own salvation ; — let him burn, if 
need were, in nethermost hell, to atone this error — but for 
that pure maid's sake, and for the cruel wrong he had put 
upon her. ' Oh, Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows,' he cried, 
wringing his hands in his agony, ' who wert a Virgin thyself, 
help and succour this virgin in her own great sorrow. Thou 
knowest her innocence, her guilelessness, her simplicity, and 
the harm beyond healing that I wrought her unawares. Oh, 
blot it out of her pure white soul and bless her. Thou 
knowest that for her sake alone, and to undo this sin to her, 
I stand here to-night, on the brink of the precipice. Queen 
of the Waves, Our Lady of the Look-out, if the sacrifice 
please thee, take me thus to thine own bosom. Let thy 
billows rise up and blot out my black sin. Oh, Mary, hear 
me ! Stella maris adesto ! ' 

He stood there for hours, growing colder and stiffen It 
was quite dark now, and the sea was rising. Yet still he 
prayed on, and still the spray dashed upward. At last, as 
he prayed in the dim night, erect, with bare head, a great 
wave broke higher than ever over the rocks below him. 
With a fierce joy, Guy de Kermadec felt it thrill through 
the thickness of the cliff: then it rose in a head, and burst 
upon him with a roar like the noise of thunder. He lost his 
footing, and fell, clutching at the jagged pinnacles for sup- 
port, into the deep trough below. There, the billows caught 
him up, and pounded him on the sharp crags. Thank 
Heaven for that mercy ! Our Lady had heard his last 
prayer. Mary, full of grace, had been pleased to succour 
him. With a penance of blood, from torn hands and feet, 
was he expiating his sin against Heaven and against Ivy. 

Next morning, the douanier, pacing the shore alone, saw a 
dead body entangled among the sharp rocks by the precipice. 
80" 



THE abb:^^s repentance 

Climbing down on hands and knees, he fished it out with 
difficulty, and ran to fetch a gendarme. The face was beaten 
to a jelly, past all recognition, and the body was mangled in 
a hideous fashion. But it wore a rent soutane, all in ribbons 
on the I'ocks ; and the left third finger bore a signet-ring 
with a coat of arms and the motto, ' Foy d'un Kermadec' 

Ivy is still unwed. No eye but hers has ever seen Guy de 
Kermadec's last letter. 



87 



V 
WOLVERDEN TOWER 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 



Maisie Llewelyn had never been asked to Wolverden 
before ; therefore, she was not a little elated at Mrs. West's 
invitation. For Wolverden Hall, one of the loveliest 
Elizabethan manor-houses in the Weald of Kent, had been 
bought and fitted up in appropriate style (the phrase is the 
upholsterer's) by Colonel West, the famous millionaire from 
South Australia. The Colonel had lavished upon it untold 
wealth, fleeced from the backs of ten thousand sheep and 
an equal number of his fellow-countrymen ; and Wolverden 
was now, if not the most beautiful, at least the most 
opulent country-house within easy reach of London. 

Mrs. West was waiting at the station to meet Maisie. 
The house was full of Christmas guests already, it is true ; 
but Mrs, West was a model of stately, old-fashioned 
courtesy : she would not have omitted meeting one among 
the number on any less excuse than a royal command to 
appear at Windsor. She kissed Maisie on both cheeks — she 
had always been fond of Maisie — and, leaving two haughty 
young aristocrats (in powdered hair and blue-and-gold 
livery) to hunt up her luggage by the light of nature, 
sailed forth with her through the door to the obsequious 
carriage. 

The drive up the avenue to Wolverden Hall Maisie found 
quite delicious. Even in their leafless winter condition the 

91 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

great limes looked so noble ; and the ivy-covered hall at 
the end, with its mullioned windows, its Inigo Jones porch, 
and its creeper-clad gables, was as picturesque a building 
as the ideals one sees in Mr. Abbey's sketches. If only 
Arthur Hume had been one of the party now, Maisie's joy 
would have been complete. But what was the use of 
thinking so much about Arthur Hume, when she didn't 
even know whether Arthur Hume cared for her? 

A tall, slim girl, Maisie Llewelyn, with rich black hair, 
and ethereal features, as became a descendant of Llewelyn 
ap lorwerth — the sort of girl we none of us would have 
called anything more than 'interesting' till Rossetti and 
Burne-Jones found eyes for us to see that the type is 
beautiful with a deeper beauty than that of your obvious 
pink-and-white prettiness. Her eyes, in particular, had 
a lustrous depth that was almost superhuman, and her 
fingers and nails were strangely transparent in their waxen 
softness. 

'You won't mind my having put you in a ground-floor 
room in the new wing, my dear, will you .'' ' Mrs West 
inquired, as she led Maisie personally to the quarters chosen 
for her, ' You see, we 're so unusually full, because of these 
tableaux ! ' 

Maisie gazed round the ground-floor room in the new 
wing with eyes of mute wondei*. If this was the kind of 
lodging for which Mrs. West thought it necessary to 
apologise, Maisie wondered of what sort were those better 
rooms which she gave to the guests she delighted to honour. 
It was a large and exquisitely decorated chamber, with the 
softest and deepest Oriental carpet Maisie's feet had ever 
felt, and the daintiest curtains her eyes had ever lighted 
upon. True, it opened by French windows on to what was 
nominally the ground in front ; but as the Italian terrace, 
with its formal balustrade and its great stone balls, was 
raised several feet above the level of the sloping garden 
92 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

below, the room was really on the first floor for all practical 
purposes. Indeed, Maisie rather liked the unwonted sense 
of space and freedom which was given by this easy access 
to the world without ; and, as the windows were secured 
by great shutters and fasteners, she had no counterbalancing 
fear lest a nightly burglar should attempt to carry off her 
little pearl necklet or her amethyst brooch, instead of 
directing his whole attention to Mrs. West's famous dia- 
mond tiara. 

She moved natui*ally to the window. She was fond of 
nature. The view it disclosed over the Weald at her feet 
was wide and varied. Misty range lay behind misty range, 
in a faint December haze, receding and receding, till away 
to the south, half hidden by vapour, the Sussex downs 
loomed vague in the distance. The village church, as 
happens so often in the case of old lordly manors, stood 
within the grounds of the Hall, and close by the house. It 
had been built, her hostess said, in the days of the Edwards, 
but had portions of an older Saxon edifice still enclosed in 
the chancel. The one eyesore in the view was its new 
white tower, recently restored (or rather, rebuilt), which 
contrasted most painfully with the mellow grey stone and 
mouldering corbels of the nave and transept. 

'What a pity it's been so spoiled!' Maisie exclaimed, 
looking across at the tower. Coming straight as she did 
from a Merioneth rectory, she took an ancestral interest in 
all that concerned churches. 

'^ Oh, my dear!' Mrs. West cried, 'please don't say that, 
I beg of you, to the Colonel. If you were to murmur 
"spoiled" to him you 'd wreck his digestion. He 's spent 
ever so much money over securing the foundations and 
reproducing the sculpture on the old tower we took down, 
and it breaks his dear heart when anybody disapproves of 
it. For some people, you know, are so absurdly opposed to 
reasonable restoration.' 

9S 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

' Oh, but this isn't even restoration, you know,' Maisie 
said, with the frankness of twenty, and the specialist 
interest of an antiquary's daughter. ' This is pure recon- 
struction.' 

' Perhaps so,' Mrs. West answered. ' But if you think so, 
my dear, don't breathe it at Wolverden.' 

A fire, of ostentatiously wealthy dimensions, and of the 
best glowing coal, burned bright on the hearth ; but the 
day was mild, and hardly more than autumnal. Maisie 
found the room quite unpleasantly hot. She opened the 
windows and stepped out on the terrace. Mrs. West 
followed her. They paced up and down the broad gravelled 
platform for a while — Maisie had not yet taken off her 
travelling-cloak and hat — and then strolled half uncon- 
sciously towards the gate of the church. The churchyard, 
to hide the tombstones of which the parapet had been 
erected, was full of quaint old monuments, with broken- 
nosed cherubs, some of them dating from a comparatively 
early period. The porch, with its sculptured niches deprived 
of their saints by puritan hands, was still rich and beautiful 
in its carved detail. On the seat inside an old Avoman was 
sitting. She did not rise as the lady of the manor ap- 
proached, but went on mumbling and muttering inarticu- 
lately to herself in a sulky undertone. Still, Maisie was 
aware, none the less, that the moment she came near a 
strange light gleamed suddenly in the old woman's eyes, 
and that her glance was fixed upon her. A faint thrill of 
recognition seemed to pass like a flash through her palsied 
body. Maisie knew not why, but she was dimly afraid of 
the old woman's gaze upon her. 

' It 's a lovely old church ! ' Maisie said, looking up at the 
trefoil finials on the porch — '^all, except the tower.' 

'We had to reconstruct it,' Mrs. West answered apologeti- 
cally — Mrs. West's general attitude in life was apologetic, 
as though she felt she had no right to so much more money 
94 



AVOLVERDEN TOWER 

than her fellow-creatures. ' It would have fallen if we 
hadn't done something to buttress it up. It was really in a 
most dangerous and critical condition.' 

' Lies ! lies ! lies ! ' the old woman burst out suddenly, 
though in a strange, low tone, as if speaking to herself ' It 
would not have fallen — they knew it would not. It could 
not have fallen. It would never have fallen if they had 
not destroyed it. And even then — I was there when they 
pulled it down — each stone clung to each, with arms and 
legs and hands and claws, till they burst them asunder by 
main force with their new-fangled stuff — I don't know what 
they call it — dynamite, or something. It was all of it done 
for one man's vainglory ! ' 

'Come away, dear,' Mrs. West whispered. But Maisie 
loitered. 

'Wolverden Tower was fasted thrice,' the old woman 
continued, in a sing-song quaver. ' It was fasted thrice 
with souls of maids against every assault of man or devil. 
It was fasted at the foundation against earthquake and ruin. 
It was fasted at the top against thunder and lightning. It 
was fasted in the middle against storm and battle. And 
there it would have stood for a thousand years if a wicked 
man had not raised a vainglorious hand against it. For 
that 's what the rhyme says — 

' Fasted thrice with souls of men. 
Stands the tower of Wolverden ; 
Fasted thrice with maidens' blood, 
A thousand years of fire and flood 
Shall see it stand as erst it stood.' 

She paused a moment, then, raising one skinny hand 
towards the bi*and-new stone, she went on in the same voice, 
but with malignant fervour — 

' A thousand years the tower shall stand 
Till ill assailed by evil hand ; 

95 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

By evil hand in evil hour, 

Fasted tlirice with warlock's power, 

Shall fall the staiies of Wulf here's tower. ' 

She tottered off as she ended, and took her seat on the 
edge of a depressed vault in the churchyard close by, still 
eyeing Maisie Llewelyn with a weird and curious glance, 
almost like the look Avhich a famishing man casts upon the 
food in a shop-window. 

' Who is she ? ' Maisie asked, shrinking away in undefined 
terror. 

' Oh, old Bessie,' Mrs. West answered, looking more 
apologetic (for the parish) than ever. ' She 's always 
hanging about here. She has nothing else to do, and she 's 
an outdoor pauper. You see, that 's the worst of having the 
church in one's grounds, which is otherwise picturesque and 
romantic and baronial ; the road to it 's public ; you must 
admit all the world ; and old Bessie will come here. The 
servants are afraid of her. They say she s a witch. She 
has the evil eye, and she drives girls to suicide. But they 
cross her hand with silver all the same, and she tells them 
their fortunes — gives them each a butler. She 's full of 
dreadful stories about Wolverden Church — stories to make 
your blood run cold, my dear, compact with old supersti- 
tions and murders, and so forth. And they 're true, too, 
that 's the worst of them. She 's quite a character. Mr, 
Blaydes, the antiquary, is really attached to her ; he says 
she 's now the sole living repository of the traditional folk- 
lore and history of the parish. But I don't care for it 
myself. It "gars one greet," as we say in Scotland. Too 
much burying alive in it, don't you know, my dear, to quite 
suit my fancy.' 

They turned back as she spoke towards the carved 
wooden lych-gate, one of the oldest and most exquisite of 
its class in England. When they reached the vault by 
9Q 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

whose doors old Bessie was seated, Maisie turned once more 
to gaze at the pointed lancet windows of the Early English 
choir, and the still more ancient dog-tooth ornament of the 
ruined Norman Lady Chapel. 

' How solidly it 's built ! ' she exclaimed, looking up 
at the arches which alone survived the fury of the Puritan. 
' It really looks as if it would last for ever.' 

Old Bessie had bent her head, and seemed to be whisper- 
ing something at the door of the vault. But at the sound 
she raised her eyes, and, turning her wizened face towards 
the lady of the manor, mumbled through her few remaining 
fang-like teeth an old local saying, ' Bradbury for length, 
Wolverden for strength, and Church Hatton for beauty I 

* Three brothers builded churches three ; 
And fasted thrice each church shall be : 
Fasted thrice with maidens' blood. 
To make them safe from fire and flood ; 
Fasted thrice with souls of men, 
Hatton, Bradbury, Wolverden ! ' 

' Come away,' Maisie said, shuddering. ' I 'm afraid of 
that woman. Why was she whispering at the doors of the 
vault down there ? I don't like the look of her.' 

' My dear,' Mrs. West answered, in no less terrified a tone, 
' I will confess I don't like the look of her myself. I wish 
she 'd leave the place. I 've tried to make her. The 
Colonel offered her fifty pounds down and a nice cottage in 
Surrey if only she 'd go — she frightens me so much ; but 
she wouldn't hear of it. She said she must stop by the 
bodies of her dead — that 's her style, don't you see : a sort 
of modern ghoul, a degenerate vampire — and from the 
bodies of her dead in Wolverden Church no living soul 
should ever move her.' 



97 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 



II 



For dinner Maisie wore her white satin Empire dress, high- 
waisted, low-necked, and cut in the bodice with a certain 
baby-like simplicity of style which exactly suited her strange 
and uncanny type of beauty. She was very much admired. 
She felt it, and it pleased her. The young man who took 
her in, a subaltern of engineers, had no eyes for any one 
else ; while old Admiral Wade, who sat opposite her with a 
plain and skinny dowager, made her positively uncomfort- 
able by the persistent way in which he stared at her simple 
pearl necklet. 

After dinner, the tableaux. They had been designed and 
managed by a famous Royal Academician, and were mostly 
got up by the members of the house-party. But tAvo or 
three actresses from London had been specially invited to 
help in a few of the more mythological scenes ; for, indeed, 
Mrs. West had prepared the entii-e entertainment with that 
topsy-turvy conscientiousness and scrupulous sense of re- 
sponsibility to society which pervaded her view of million- 
aire morality. Having once decided to offer the county a 
set of tableaux, she felt that millionaire morality absolutely 
demanded of her the sacrifice of three weeks' time and 
several hundred pounds money in order to discharge her 
obligations to the county with becoming magnificence. 

The first tableau, Maisie learned from the gorgeous 
programme, was '^Jephthah's Daughter.' The subject was 
represented at the pathetic moment Avhen the doomed 
virgin goes forth from her father's house with her attendant 
maidens to bewail her virginity for two months upon the 
mountains, before the fulfilment of the awful vow which 
bound her father to offer her up for a burnt offering. Maisie 
thought it too solemn and tragic a scene for a festive occa- 
98 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

sion. But the famous R.A. had a taste for such themes, and 
his grouping was certainly most effectively dramatic. 

' A perfect symphony in white and grey/ said Mr. Wills, 
the art critic. 

' How awfully affecting ! ' said most of the young girls. 

' Reminds me a little too much, my dear, of old Bessie's 
stories,' Mrs. West whispered low, leaning from her seat 
across two rows to Maisie. 

A piano stood a little on one side of the platform, just in 
front of the curtain. The intervals between the pieces 
were filled up with songs, which, however, had been 
evidently arranged in keeping with the solemn and half- 
mystical tone of the tableaux. It is the habit of amateurs 
to take a long time in getting their scenes in order, so the 
interposition of the music was a happy thought as far as its 
prime intention went. But Maisie wondered they could 
not have chosen some livelier song for Christmas Eve than 
' Oh, Mary, go and call the cattle home, and call the cattle 
home, and call the cattle home, across the sands of Dee.' 
Her own name was Maxy when she signed it officially, and 
the sad lilt of the last line, ' But never home came she,' 
rang unpleasantly in her ear through the rest of the 
evening. 

The second tableau was the ' Sacrifice of Iphigenia.' It 
was admirably rendered. The cold and dignified father, 
standing, apparently unmoved, by the pyre ; the cruel faces 
of the attendant priests ; the shrinking form of the immo- 
lated princess ; the mere blank curiosity and inquiring 
interest of the helmeted heroes looking on, to whom this 
slaughter of a virgin victim was but an ordinary incident of 
the Achaean religion — all these had been arranged by the 
Academical director with consummate skill and pictorial 
cleverness. But the group that attracted Maisie most 
among the components of the scene was that of the 
attendant maidens, more conspicuous here in their flowing 

99 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

white chitons than even they had been when posed as 
companions of the beautiful and ill-fated Hebrew victim. 
Two in particular excited her close attention — two very 
graceful and spiritual-looking girls, in long white robes of 
no pai'ticular age or country, who stood at the very end 
near the right edge of the picture. ' How lovely they are, 
the two last on the right ! ' Maisie whispered to her neigh- 
bour — an Oxford undei'graduate with a budding moustache. 
' I do so admire them ! ' 

' Do you ? ' he answered, fondling the moustache with 
one dubious finger. ' Well, now, do you know, I don't 
think I do. They're rather coarse-looking. And besides, 
T don't quite like the way they 've got their hair done up 
in bunches ; too fashionable, isn't it .'' — too much of the 
present day } I don't care to see a girl in a Greek costume, 
with her coiffure so evidently turned out by Truentt's ! ' 

' Oh, I don't mean those two,' Maisie answered, a little 
shocked he should think she had picked out such mere- 
tricious faces ; ' I mean the two beyond them again — the 
two with their hair so simply and sweetly done — the 
ethereal-looking dark girls.' 

The undergraduate opened his mouth, and stared at her 

in blank amazement for a moment. 'Well, I don't see ' 

he began, and broke off suddenly. Something in Maisie's 
eye seemed to give him pause. He fondled his moustache, 
hesitated, and was silent. 

' How nice to have read the Greek and know what it all 
means ! ' Maisie went on, after a minute. ' It 's a human 
saci'ifice, of course ; but, please, what is the story .'' ' 

The undergraduate hummed and hawed. ' Well, it 's in 
Euripides, you know,' he said, trying to look impressive, 
'and — er — and I haven't taken up Euripides for my next 
examination. But I tlmik it's like this. Iphigenia was a 
daughter of Agamemnon's, don't you know, and he had 
offended Artemis or somebody — some other goddess ; and 
100 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

he vowed to offer up to her the most beautiful thing that 
should be born that year, by way of reparation— just like 
Jephthah. Well, Iphigenia was considered the most beauti- 
ful product of the particular twelvemonth— don't look at 
me like that, please ! you— you make me nervous —and so, 
when the young woman grew up— well, I don't quite 
recollect the ins and outs of the details, but it 's a human 
sacrifice business, don't you see ; and they 're just going to 
kill her, though I believe a hind was finally substituted for 
the girl, like the ram for Isaac ; but I must confess I 've a 
very vague recollection of it.' He rose from his seat 
uneasily. 'I'm afraid,' he went on, shuffling about for 
an excuse to move, ' these chairs are too close. I seem to 
be incommoding you.' 

He moved away with a furtive air. At the end of the 
tableau one or two of the characters who were not needed 
in succeeding pieces came down from the stage and joined 
the body of spectators, as they often do, in their character- 
dresses— a good opportunity, in point of fact, for retaining 
through the evening the advantages conferred by theatrical 
costume, rouge, and pearl-powder. Among them the two 
girls Maisie had admired so much glided quietly toward her 
and took the two vacant seats on either side, one of which 
had just been quitted by the awkward undergraduate. They 
were not only beautiful in face and figure, on a closer view, 
but Maisie found them from the first extremely sympathetic. 
They burst into talk with her, frankly and at once, with 
charming ease and grace of manner. They were ladies in 
the grain, in instinct and breeding. The taller of the two, 
whom the other addressed as Yolande, seemed particularly 
pleasing. The very name charmed Maisie. She was friends 
with them at once. They both possessed a certain nameless 
attraction that constitutes in itself the best possible intro- 
duction. Maisie hesitated to ask them whence they came, but 
it was clear from their talk they knew Wolverden intimately. 

101 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

After a minute the piano struck up once more. A 
famous Scotch vocaHst^ in a diamond necklet and a dress 
to match, took her place on the stage, just in front of the 
footlights. As chance would have it, she began singing the 
song Maisie most of all hated. It was Scott's ballad of 
' Proud Maisie,' set to music by Carlo Ludovici — 

' Proud Maisie is in the wood. 
Walking so early ; 
Sweet Robin sits on the bush. 
Singing so rarely. 

" Tell me, thou bonny bird. 

When shall I marry me?" 
" When six braw gentlemen 

Kirkward shall carry ye." 

" Who makes the bridal bed, 

Birdie, say truly .'' " 
''The grey-headed sexton 

That delves the grave duly. 

"The glow-worm o'er grave and stone 

Shall light thee steady ; 
The owl from the steeple sing, 

' Welcome, proud lady.' 

Maisie listened to the song with grave discomfort. She 
had never liked it, and to-night it appalled her. She did 
not know that just at that moment Mrs. West was whisper- 
ing in a perfect fever of apology to a lady by her side, ' Oh 
dear ! oh dear ! what a dreadful thing of me ever to have 
permitted that song to be sung here to-night ! It was 
horribly thoughtless ! Why, now I remember, Miss 
Llewelyn's name, you know, is Maisie ! — and there she is 
listening to it with a face like a sheet ! I shall never 
forgive myself! ' 

The tall, dark girl by Maisie' s side, whom the other 
called Yolande, leaned across to her sympathetically. ' You 
102 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

don't like that song? ' she said, with just a tinge of reproach 
in her voice as she said it. 

' I hate it ! ' Maisie answered, trying hard to compose 
herself. 

'Why so?' the tall, dark girl asked, in a tone of calm 
and singular sweetness. 'It is sad, perhaps; but it's lovely 
— and natural ! ' 

'My own name is Maisie,' her new friend replied, with 
an ill-repressed shudder. ' And somehow that song pursues 
me through life. I seem always to hear the horrid ring 
of the words, "When six braw gentlemen kirkward shall 
carry ye." I wish to Heaven my people had never called 
me Maisie ! ' 

' And yet why ? ' the tall, dark girl asked again, with a 
sad, mysterious air. ' Why this clinging to life — this terror 
of death — this inexplicable attachment to a world of misery ? 
And with such eyes as yours, too ! Your eyes are like mine ' 
— Avhich was a compliment, certainly, for the dark girl's 
own pair were strangely deep and lustrous. ' People with 
eyes such as those, that can look into futurity, ought not 
surely to shrink from a mere gate like death ! For death 
is but a gate — the gate of life in its fullest beauty. It 
is written over the door, " Mors janua vitae." ' 

' What door ? ' Maisie asked — for she remembered having 
read those selfsame words, and tried in vain to translate 
them, that very day, though the meaning was now clear 
to her. 

The answer electrified her: 'The gate of the vault in 
Wolverden churchyard.' 

She said it very low, but with pregnant expression. 

' Oh, how dreadful ! ' Maisie exclaimed, drawing back. 
The tall, dark girl half frightened her. 

' Not at all,' the girl answered. ' This life is so short, so 
vain, so transitory ! And beyond it is peace — eternal peace 
— the calm of rest — the joy of the spirit.' 

103 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

'You come to anchor at last,' her companion added. 

' But if — one has somebody one would not Avish to leave 
behind ? ' Maisie suggested timidly. 

' He will follow before long/ the dark girl replied 
with quiet decision, interpreting rightly the sex of the 
indefinite substantive. 'Time passes so quickly. And 
if time passes quickly in time, how much more, then, in 
eternity ! ' 

' Hush, Yolande,' the other dark girl put in, with a 
warning glance ; ' there 's a new tableau coming. Let 
me see, is this " The Death of Ophelia " .'' No, that 's 
number four; this is number three, "The Martyrdom of 
St. Ag-nes." ' 



HI 

' My dear,' Mrs. West said, positively oozing apology, when 
she met Maisie in the supper-room, ' I 'm afraid you 've been 
left in a corner by yourself almost all the evening ! ' 

' Oh dear, no,' Maisie answered with a quiet smile. ' I 
had that Oxford undergraduate at my elbow at first ; and 
afterwards those two nice girls^ with the flowing Avhite 
dresses and the beautiful eyes, came and sat beside me. 
What's their name, I wonder?' 

' Which girls .'' ' Mrs. West asked, with a little surprise in 
her tone, for her impression was rather that Maisie had been 
sitting between two empty chairs for the greater part of the 
evening, muttering at times to herself in the most uncanny 
way, but not talking to anybody. 

Maisie glanced round the room in search of her new 
friends, and for some time could not see them. At last, 
she observed them in a remote alcove, drinking red wine 
by themselves out of Venetian-glass beakers. ' Those two,' 
she said, pointing towards them. ' They 're such charming 
104 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

girls ! Can you tell me who they are ? I 've quite taken a 
fancy to them.' 

Mrs. West gazed at them for a second — or rather, at the 
recess toAvards which Maisie pointed — and then turned 
to Maisie with much the same oddly embarrassed look and 
manner as the undergraduate's. ' Oh, those ! ' she said 
slowly, peering through and through her, Maisie thought. 
'Those — must be some of the professionals from London. 
At any rate — I 'm not sure which you mean — over there by 
the curtain, in the Moorish nook, you say — well, I can't tell 
you their names ! So they imist be pi'ofessionals.' 

She went off with a singularly frightened manner. Maisie 
noticed it and wondered at it. But it made no great or 
lasting impression. 

When the party broke up, about midnight or a little 
later, Maisie went along the corridor to her own bedroom. 
At the end, by the door, the two other girls happened to be 
standing, apparently gossiping. 

' Oh, you 've not gone home yet .'' ' Maisie said, as she 
passed, to Yolande. 

' No, we 're stopping here,' the dark girl with the speak- 
ing eyes answered. 

Maisie paused for a second. Then an impulse burst over 
her. ' Will you come and see my room } ' she asked, a little 
timidly. 

' Shall we go, Hedda ? ' Yolande said, with an inquiring 
glance at her companion. 

Her friend nodded assent, Maisie opened the door, and 
ushered them into her bedroom. 

The ostentatiously opulent fire was still burning brightly, 
the electric light flooded the room with its brilliancy, the 
curtains were drawn, and the shutters fastened. For a while 
the three girls sat together by the hearth and gossiped 
quietly. Maisie liked her new friends — their voices were 
so gentle, soft, and sympathetic, while for face and figure 

105 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

they might have sat as models to Burne-Jones or BotticelU. 
Their dresses, too, took her delicate Welsh fancy; they 
were so dainty, yet so simple. The soft silk fell in natural 
folds and dimples. The only ornaments they wore were 
two curious brooches of very antique workmanship — as 
Maisie supposed — somewhat Celtic in design, and enamelled 
in blood-red on a gold background. Each carried a flower 
laid loosely in her bosom. Yolande's was an orchid with 
long, floating streamers, in colour and shape recalling some 
Southern lizard ; dark purple spots dappled its lip and 
petals. Hedda's was a flower of a sort Maisie had never 
before seen — the stem spotted like a viper's skin, green 
flecked with russet-brown, and uncanny to look upon ; on 
either side, great twisted spirals of red-and-blue blossoms, 
each curled after the fashion of a scorpion's tail, very strange 
and lurid. Something weird and witch-like about flowers 
and dresses rather attracted Maisie ; they affected her with 
the half-repellent fascination of a snake for a bird ; she felt 
such blossoms were fit for incantations and sorceries. But 
a lily-of-the-valley in Yolande's dark hair gave a sense of 
purity which assoi'ted better with the girl's exquisitely calm 
and nun-like beauty. 

After a while Hedda rose. ' This air is close,' she said. 
' It ought to be warm outside to-night, if one may judge by 
the sunset. May I open the window ? ' 

' Oh, certainly, if you like,' Maisie answered, a vague 
foreboding now struggling within her against innate 
politeness. 

Hedda drew back the curtains and unfastened the 
shutters. It was a moonlit evening. The breeze hardly 
stirred the bare boughs of the silver birches. A sprinkling 
of soft snow on the terrace and the hills just whitened the 
ground. The moon lighted it up, falling full upon the 
Hall ; the church and tower below stood silhouetted in 
dark against a cloudless expanse of starry sky in the back- 
106 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

ground. Hedda opened the window. Cool, fresh air blew 
in, very soft and genial, in spite of the snow and the late- 
ness of the season. ' What a glorious night ! ' she said, 
looking up at Orion overhead. 'Shall we stroll out for a 
while in it .'' ' 

If the suggestion had not thus been thrust upon her from 
outside, it would never have occurred to Maisie to walk 
abroad in a strange place, in evening dress, on a winter's 
night, with snow Avhitening the ground ; but Hedda's voice 
sounded so SAveetly persuasive, and the idea itself seemed so 
natural now she had once proposed it, that Maisie followed 
her two new friends on to the moonlit terrace without a 
moment's hesitation. 

They paced once or twice up and down the gravelled 
walks. Strange to say, though a sprinkling of dry snow 
powdered the ground under foot, the air itself was soft and 
balmy. Stranger still, Maisie noticed, almost without 
noticing it, that though they walked three abreast, only one 
pair of footprints — her own — lay impressed on the snow in a 
long trail when they turned at either end and re-paced the 
platform. Yolande and Hedda must step lightly indeed ; 
or pei'haps her own feet might be warmer or thinner shod, 
so as to melt the light layer of snow more I'eadily. 

The girls slipped their arms through hers. A little thrill 
coursed through her. Then, after three or four turns up 
and down the terrace, Yolande led the way quietly down 
the broad flight of steps in the direction of the church on 
the lower level. In that bright, broad moonlight Maisie 
went with them undeterred ; the Hall was still alive with 
the glare of electric lights in bedroom windows ; and the 
presence of the other girls, both wholly free from any signs 
of fear, took off all sense of terror or loneliness. They 
strolled on into the churchyard. Maisie's eyes were now 
fixed on the new white tower, which merged in the silhouette 
against the starry sky into much the same grey and indefinite 

107 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

hue as the older parts of the building. Before she quite 
knew where she was, she found herself at the head of the 
worn stone steps which led into the vault by whose doors 
she had seen old Bessie sitting. In the pallid moonlight, 
with the aid of the greenish reflection from the snow, she 
could just read the words inscribed over the portal, the 
words that Yolande had repeated in the drawing-room, 
' Mors janua vitae.' 

Yolande moved down one step. Maisie drew back for 
the first time with a faint access of alarm. ' You 're — 
you 're not going down there ! ' she exclaimed, catching her 
breath for a second. 

' Yes, I am,' her new friend answered in a calmly quiet 
voice. ' Why not .'* We live here.' 

* You live here ? ' Maisie echoed, freeing her arms by a 
sudden movement and standing away from her mysterious 
friends with a tremulous shudder. 

' Yes, we live here,' Hedda broke in, without the slightest 
emotion. She said it in a voice of perfect calm, as one 
might say it of any house in a street in London. 

Maisie was far less terrified than she might have imagined 
beforehand would be the case under such unexpected condi- 
tions. The two girls were so simple, so natural, so strangely 
like herself, that she could not say she was really afi-aid of 
them. She shrank, it is true, from the nature of the door 
at which they stood, but she received the unearthly announce- 
ment that they lived there with scarcely more than a slight 
tremor of surprise and astonishment, 

'You will come in with us.''' Hedda said in a gently 
enticing tone. ' We went into your bedroom.' 

Maisie hardly liked to say no. They seemed so anxious 
to show her their home. With trembling feet she moved 
down the first step, and then the second. Yolande kept 
ever one pace in front of her. As Maisie reached the third 
step, the two girls, as if moved by one design, took her 
108 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

wrists in their hands, not unkindly, but coaxingly. They 
reached the actual doors of the vault itself — two heavy 
bronze valves, meeting in the centre. Each bore a ring for 
a handle, pierced through a Gorgon's head embossed upon 
the surface. Yolande pushed them with her hand. They 
yielded instantly to her light touch, and opened inward. 
Yolande, still in front, passed from the glow of the moon to 
the gloom of the vault, which a ray of moonlight just de- 
scended obliquely. As she passed, for a second, a weird 
sight met Maisie's eyes. Her face and hands and dress 
became momentarily self-luminous; but through them, as 
they glowed, she could descry within every bone and joint 
of her living skeleton, dimly shadowed in dark through the 
luminous haze that marked her body. 

Maisie drew back once more, terrified. Yet her terror 
was not quite what one could describe as fear : it was rather 
a vague sense of the profoundly mystical. ' I can't ! I can't!' 
she cried, with an appealing glance. ' Hedda ! Yolande ! I 
cannot go with you.' 

Hedda held her hand tight, and almost seemed to force 
her. But Yolande, in front, like a mother with her child, 
turned round with a grave smile. ' No, no,' she said reprov- 
ingly. ' Let her come if she will, Hedda, of her own 
accord, not otherwise. The tower demands a willing 
victim.' 

Her hand on Maisie's wrist was strong but persuasive. It 
drew her without exercising the faintest compulsion. ' Will 
you come with us, dear ? ' she said, in that winning silvery 
tone which had captivated Maisie's fancy from the very first 
moment they spoke together. Maisie gazed into her eyes. 
They were deep and tender. A strange resolution seemed 
to nerve her for the effort. ' Yes, yes — I — will — come — with 
you,' she answered slowly. 

Hedda on one side, Yolande on the other, now went 
before her, holding her wrists in their grasp, but rather 

109 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

enticing than drawing her. As each reached the gloom, the 
same luminous appearance which Maisie had noticed before 
spread over their bodies, and the same weird skeleton shape 
showed faintly through their limbs in darker shadow. 
Maisie crossed the threshold with a convulsive gasp. As 
she crossed it she looked down at her own dress and body. 
They were semi-transparent, like the others', though not 
quite so self-luminous ; the framework of her limbs appeared 
within in less certain outline, yet quite dark and distinguish- 
able. 

The doors swung to of themselves behind her. Those 
three stood alone in the vault of Wolverden. 

Alone, for a minute or two ; and then, as her eyes grew 
accustomed to the grey dusk of the interior, Maisie began 
to perceive that the vault opened out into a large and 
beautiful hall or crypt, dimly lighted at first, but becoming 
each moment more vaguely clear and more dreamily definite. 
Gradually she could make out great rock-hewn pillars, 
Romanesque in their outline or dimly Oriental, like the 
sculptured columns in the caves of Ellora, supporting a roof 
of vague and uncertain dimensions, more or less strangely 
dome-shaped. The effect on the whole was like that of the 
second impression produced by some dim cathedral, such as 
Chartres or Milan, after the eyes have grown accustomed to 
the mellow light from the stained-glass windows, and have 
recovered from the blinding glare of the outer sunlight. 
But the architecture, if one may call it so, was more mosque- 
like and magical. She turned to her companions. Yolande 
and Hedda stood still by her side ; their bodies were now 
self-luminous to a greater degree than even at the threshold; 
but the terrible transparency had disappeared altogether ; 
they were once more but beautiful though strangely trans- 
figured and more than mortal women. 

Then Maisie understood in her own soul, dimly, the mean- 
ing of those mystic words written over the portal — ' Mors 
110 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

janua vitae ' — Death is the gate of life ; and also the interpre- 
tation of that awful vision of death dwelling within them as 
they crossed the threshold ; for through that gate they had 
passed to this underground palace. 

Her two guides still held her hands, one on either side. 
But they seemed rather to lead her on now, seductively and 
resistlessly, than to draw or compel her. As she moved in 
through the hall, with its endless vistas of shadowy pillars, 
seen now behind, now in dim perspective, she was gradually 
aware that many other people crowded its aisles and corridors. 
Slowly they took shape as forms more or less clad, mysterious, 
varied, and of many ages. Some of them wore flowing robes, 
half mediaeval in shape, like the two friends who had brought 
her there. They looked like the saints on a stained-glass 
window. Others were girt merely with a light and floating 
Coan sash ; while some stood dimly nude in the darker 
recesses of the temple or palace. All leaned eagerly forward 
with one mind as she approached, and regarded her with 
deep and sympathetic interest. A few of them murmured 
words — mere cabalistic sounds which at fii'st she could not 
understand ; but as she moved further into the hall, and saw 
at each step more clearly into the gloom, they began to 
have a meaning for her. Before long, she was aware that 
she understood the mute tumult of voices at once by some 
internal instinct. The Shades addressed her ; she answered 
them. She knew by intuition what tongue they spoke ; it 
was the Language of the Dead ; and, by passing that portal 
with her two companions, she had herself become enabled 
both to speak and understand it. 

A soft and flowing tongue, this speech of the Nether 
World — all vowels it seemed, without distinguishable con- 
sonants ; yet dimly recalling every other tongue, and com 
pounded, as it were, of what was common to all of them. 
It flowed from those shadowy lips as clouds issue inchoate 
from a mountain valley ; it was formless, uncertain, vague, 

111 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

but yet beautiful. She hardly knew, indeed, as it fell upon 
her senses^ if it were sound or perfume. 

Through this tenuous world Maisie moved as in a dream, 
her two companions still cheering and guiding her. When 
they reached an inner shrine or chantry of the temple she 
was dimly conscious of more terrible forms pervading the 
background than any of those that had yet appeared to her. 
This was a more austere and antique apartment than the 
rest ; a shadowy cloister, prehistoric in its severity ; it 
recalled to her mind something indefinitely intermediate 
between the huge unwrought trilithons of Stonehenge and 
the massive granite pillars of Philse and Luxor. At the 
fui*ther end of the sanctuary a sort of Sphinx looked down on 
her, smiling mysteriously. At its base, on a rude megalithic 
throne, in solitary state, a High Priest was seated. He bore 
in his hand a wand or sceptre. All round, a strange court 
of half-unseen acolytes and shadowy hierophants stood 
attentive. They were girt, as she fancied, in what looked 
like leopards' skins, or in the fells of some earlier prehistoric 
lion. These wore sabre-shaped teeth suspended by a string 
round their dusky necks ; others had ornaments of uncut 
amber, or hatchets of jade threaded as collars on a cord of 
sinew. A few, more barbaric than savage in type, flaunted 
torques of gold as armlets and necklets. 

The High Priest rose slowly and held out his two hands, 
just level with his head, the palms turned outward. 'You 
have brought a willing victim as Guardian of the Tower ? ' 
he asked, in that mystic tongue, of Yolande and Hedda. 

'We have brought a willing victim,' the two girls answered. 

The High Priest gazed at her. His glance was piercing. 
Maisie trembled less with fear than with a sense of strange- 
ness, such as a neophyte might feel on being first presented 
at some courtly pageant. ' You come of your own accord ? ' 
the Priest inquired of her in solemn accents. 

' I come of my own accord,' Maisie answered, with an 
112 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

inner consciousness that she was bearing her part in some 
immemorial ritual. Ancestral memories seemed to stir 
within her. 

* It is well/ the Priest murmured. Then he turned to her 
guides. ' She is of royal lineage .'' ' he inquired^ taking his 
wand in his hand again. 

' She is a Llewelyn,' Yolande answered, ' of royal lineage, 
and of the race that, after your own, earliest bore sway in 
this land of Britain. She has in her veins the blood of 
Arthur, of Ambrosius, and of Vortigern.' 

' It is well,' the Priest said again. 'I know these princes.' 
Then he turned to Maisie. ' This is the ritual of those who 
build,' he said, in a very deep voice. ' It has been the 
ritual of those who build from the days of the builders of 
Lokmariaker and Avebury. Every building man makes 
shall have its human soul, the soul of a virgin to guard and 
protect it. Three souls it requires as a living talisman 
against chance and change. One soul is the soul of the 
human victim slain beneath the foundation-stone ; she is the 
guardian spirit against earthquake and ruin. One soul is 
the soul of the human victim slain when the building is half 
built up ; she is the guardian spirit against battle and 
tempest. One soul is the soul of the human victim who 
flings herself of her own free will off tower or gable when 
the building is complete ; she is the guardian spirit against 
thunder and lightning. Unless [ a building be duly fasted 
with these three, how can it hope to stand against the 
hostile powers of fire and flood and storm and earthquake .'' ' 

An assessor at his side, unnoticed till then, took up the 
parable. He had a stern Roman face, and bore a shadowy 
suit of Roman armour. ' In times of old,' he said, Avith iron 
austerity, ' all men knew well these rules of building. They 
built in solid stone to endure for ever : the works they 
erected have lasted to this day, in this land and others. So 
built we the amphitheatres of Rome and Verona; so built 
H 113 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

we the walls of Lincoln, York, and London. In the blood 
of a king's son laid we the foundation-stone : in the blood 
of a king's son laid we the coping-stone : in the blood of 
a maiden of royal line fasted we the bastions against fire 
and lightning. But in these latter days, since faith grows 
dim, men build with burnt brick and rubble of plaster ; no 
foundation spirit or guardian soul do they give to their 
bridges, their walls, or their towei'S : so bridges break, and 
walls fall in, and towers crumble, and the art and mystery 
of building aright have perished from among you.' 

He ceased. The High Priest held out his wand and 
spoke again. ' We are the Assembly of Dead Builders and 
Dead Victims,' he said, ' for this mark of Wolverden ; all of 
whom have built or been built upon in this holy site of 
immemorial sanctity. We are the stones of a living fabric. 
Before this place was a Christian church, it was a temple of 
Woden. And before it was a temple of Woden, it was a 
shrine of Hercules. And before it was a shrine of Hercules, 
it was a grove of Nodens. And before it was a grove of 
Nodens, it was a Stone Circle of the Host of Heaven. And 
before it was a Stone Circle of the Host of Heaven, it was 
the grave and tumulus and underground palace of Me, who 
am the earliest builder of all in this place ; and my name in 
my ancient tongue is Wolf, and I laid and hallowed it. And 
after me. Wolf, and my namesake Wulfhere, was this barrow 
called Ad Lupum and Wolverden. And all these that are 
here with me have built and been built upon in this holy site 
for all generations. And i/on are the last who come to 
join us.' 

Maisie felt a cold thrill course down her spine as he spoke 
these words ; but courage did not fail her. She was dimly 
aware that those who offer themselves as victims for service 
must offer themselves willingly; for the gods demand a 
voluntary victim ; no beast can be slain unless it nod assent ; 
and none can be made a guardian spirit who takes not the 
114 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

post upon him of his own free will. She turned meekly to 
Hedda. 'Who are you ?' she asked, trembling. 

' I am Hedda/ the girl answered^ in the same soft sweet 
voice and winning tone as before ; ' Hedda, the daughter of 
Gorm, the chief of the Northmen who settled in East 
Anglia. And I was a worshipper of Thor and Odin. And 
when my father, Gorm, fought against Alfred, King of 
Wessex, was I taken prisoner. And Wulfhere, the Renting, 
was then building the first church and tower of Wolverden. 
And they baptized me, and shrived me, and I consented of 
my own free will to be built under the foundation-stone. 
And there my body lies built up to this day ; and / am the 
guardian spirit against earthquake and ruin.' 

'And who are you.^' Maisie asked, turning again to 
Yolande. 

' I am Yolande Fitz-Aylwin,' the tall dark girl answered ; 
' a royal maiden too, sprung from the blood of Henry Plan- 
tagenet. And when Roland Fitz-Stephen was building anew 
the choir and chancel of Wulfhere's minster, I chose to be 
immured in the fabric of the wall, for love of the Church 
and all holy saints ; and there my body lies built up to 
this day ; and / am the guardian against battle and 
tempest.' 

Maisie held her friend's hand tight. Her voice hardly 
trembled. 'And I ? ' she asked once more. 'What fate for 
me ? Tell me ! ' 

' Your task is easier far,' Yolande answered gently. ' For 
1/ou shall be the guardian of the new tower against thunder 
and lightning. Now, those who guard against earthquake 
and battle are buried alive under the foundation-stone or 
in the wall of the building ; there they die a slow death of 
starvation and choking. But those who guard against 
thunder and lightning cast themselves alive of their own 
free will from the battlements of the tower, and die in the 
air before they reach the ground ; so their fate is the easiest 

115 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

and the lightest of all who would serve mankind ; and 
thencefoi-th they live with us here in our palace.' 

Maisie clung to her hand still tighter. ' Must I do it } ' 
she asked, pleading. 

' It is not must,' Yolande replied in the same caressing 
tone, yet with a calmness as of one in whom earthly desires 
and earthly passions are quenched for ever. ' It is as you 
choose yourself. None but a willing victim may be a 
guardian spirit. This glorious privilege comes but to the 
purest and best amongst us. Yet what better end can you 
ask for your soul than to dwell here in our midst as our 
comrade for ever, where all is peace, and to preserve the 
tower whose guardian you are from evil assaults of lightning 
and thunderbolt.'*' 

Maisie flung her arms round her friend's neck. ' But — I 
am afraid/ she murmured. Why she should even wish to 
consent she knew not, yet the strange serene peace in these 
strange girls' eyes made her mysteriously in love with them 
and with the fate they offered her. They seemed to move 
like the stars in their orbits. ' How shall I leap from the 
top .'' ' she cried. ' How shall I have coui'age to mount 
the stairs alone, and fling myself off from the lonely 
battlement .'' ' 

Yolande unwound her arms with a gentle forbearance. 
She coaxed her as one coaxes an unwilling child. ' You 
will not be alone,' she said, with a tender pressure. 'We 
will all go with you. We will help you and encourage you. 
We will sing our sweet songs of life-in-death to you. Why 
should you draw back } All we have faced it in ten 
thousand ages, and we tell you with one voice, you need 
not fear it. 'Tis life you should fear — life, with its dangers, 
its toils, its heartbreakings. Here we dwell for ever in 
unbroken peace. Come, come, and join us ! ' 

She held out her arms with an enticing gesture. Maisie 
sprang into them, sobbing. ' Yes, I will come,' she cried in 
116 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

an access of hysterical fervour. ' These are the arms of 
Death — I embrace them. These are the Hps of Death — I 
kiss them. Yolande, Yolande, I will do as you ask me ! ' 

The tall dark girl in the luminous white robe stooped 
down and kissed her twice on the forehead in return. 
Then she looked at the High Priest. ' We are ready,' she 
murmured in a low, grave voice. ' The Victim consents. 
The Virgin will die. Lead on to the tower. We are ready ! 
We are ready ! ' 



IV 



From the recesses of the temple — if temple it were — from 
the inmost shrines of the shrouded cavern, unearthly music 
began to sound of itself, with wild modulation, on strange 
reeds and tabors. It swept through the aisles like a rushing 
wind on an ^Eolian harp ; at times it wailed with a voice 
like a woman's ; at times it rose loud in an organ-note of 
triumph ; at times it sank low into a pensive and melancholy 
flute-like symphony. It waxed and waned ; it swelled and 
died away again ; but no man saw how or whence it pro- 
ceeded. Wizard echoes issued from the crannies and vents 
in the invisible walls ; they sighed from the ghostly inter- 
spaces of the pillars ; they keened and moaned from the 
vast overhanging dome of the palace. Gradually the song 
shaped itself by weird stages into a processional measure. 
At its sound the High Priest rose slowly from his immemo- 
rial seat on the mighty cromlech which formed his throne. 
The Shades in leopards' skins ranged themselves in bodiless 
rows on either hand ; the ghostly wearers of the sabre- 
toothed lions' fangs followed like ministrants in the foot- 
steps of their hierarch. 

Hedda and Yolande took their places in the procession. 

117 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

Maisie stood between the two, with hair floatins^ on the air ; 
she looked like a novice who goes up to take the veil, 
accompanied and cheered by two elder sisters. 

The ghostly pageant began to move. Unseen music 
followed it with fitful gusts of melody. They passed down 
the main corridor^ between shadowy Doric or Ionic pillars 
which grew dimmer and ever dimmer again in the distance 
as they approached, with slow steps, the earthward portal. 

At the gate, the High Priest pushed against the valves 
with his hand. They opened outward. 

He passed into the moonlight. The attendants thronged 
after him. As each wild figure crossed the threshold the 
same strange sight as before met Maisie's eyes. For a 
second of time each ghostly body became self-luminous, as 
with some curious phosphorescence ; and through each, at 
the moment of passing the portal, the dim outline of a 
skeleton loomed briefly visible. Next instant it had clothed 
itself as with earthly members, 

Maisie reached the outer air. As she did so, she gasped. 
For a second, its chilliness and freshness almost choked her. 
She was conscious now that the atmosphere of the vault, 
though pleasant in its way, and warm and dry, had been 
loaded with fumes as of burning incense, and with somnolent 
vapours of poppy and mandragora. Its drowsy ether had 
cast her into a lethargy. But after the first minute in the 
outer world, the keen night air revived her. Snow lay still 
on the ground a little deeper than when she first came out, 
and the moon rode lower ; otherwise, all was as before, save 
that only one or two lights still burned here and there in 
the great house on the terrace. Among them she could 
recognise her own room, on the ground floor in the new 
wing, by its open window. 

The procession made its way across the churchyard 
towards the tower. As it wound among the graves an 
owl hooted. All at once Maisie remembered the lines 
118 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

that had so chilled her a few short hours before in the 
drawing-room — 

' The glow-worm o'er grave and stone 

Shall light thee steady ; 
The owl from the steeple sing, 
"Welcome, proud lady !"' 

But, marvellous to relate, they no longer alarmed her. She 
felt rather that a friend was welcoming her home ; she clung 
to Yolande's hand with a gentle pressure. 

As they passed in front of the porch, with its ancient 
yew-tree, a stealthy figure glided out like a ghost from the 
darkling shadow. It was a woman, bent and bowed, with 
quivering limbs that shook half palsied. Maisie recognised 
old Bessie. ' I knew she would come ! ' the old hag 
muttered between her toothless jaws. ' I knew Wolverden 
Tower would yet be duly fasted ! ' 

She put herself, as of right, at the head of the procession. 
They moved on to the tower, rather gliding than walking. 
Old Bessie drew a rusty key from her pocket, and fitted it 
with a twist into the brand-new lock. ' What turned the 
old will turn the new,' she murmured, looking round and 
grinning. Maisie shrank from her as she shrank from not 
one of the Dead ; but she followed on still into the ringers' 
room at the base of the tower. 

Thence a staircase in the corner led up to the summit. 
The High Priest mounted the stair, chanting a mystic 
refrain, whose runic sounds were no longer intelligible to 
Maisie. As she reached the outer air, the Tongue of the 
Dead seemed to have become a mere blank of mingled 
odours and murmurs to her. It was like a summer breeze, 
sighing through warm and resinous pinewoods. But Yolande 
and Hedda spoke to her yet, to cheer her, in the language 
of the living. She recognised that as revenants they were 
still in touch with the upper air and the world of the 
embodied. 

119 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

They tempted her up the stair with encouraging fingers. 
Maisie followed them like a child, in implicit confidence. 
The steps wound round and round, spirally, and the stair- 
case was dim ; but a supernatural light seemed to fill the 
tower, diffused from the bodies or souls of its occupants. 
At the head of all, the High Priest still chanted as he went 
his unearthly litany ; magic sounds of chimes seemed to 
swim in unison with his tune as they mounted. Were those 
floating notes material or spiritual ? They passed the belfry ; 
no tongue of metal wagged ; but the rims of the great bells 
resounded and reverberated to the ghostly symphony with 
sympathetic music. Still they passed on and on, upward 
and upward. They reached the ladder that alone gave 
access to the final story. Dust and cobwebs already clung 
to it. Once more Maisie drew back. It was dark overhead, 
and the luminous haze began to fail them. Her friends 
held her hands with the same kindly persuasive touch as 
ever. ' I cannot ! ' she cried, shrinking away from the tall, 
steep ladder. ' Oh, Yolande, I cannot ! ' 

' Yes, dear,' Yolande whispered in a soothing voice. ' You 
can. It is but ten steps, and I will hold your hand tight. 
Be brave and mount them ! ' 

The sweet voice encouraged her. It was like heavenly 
music. She knew not why she should submit, or, rather, 
consent ; but none the less she consented. Some spell 
seemed cast over her. With tremulous feet, scarcely realis- 
ing what she did, she mounted the ladder and went up four 
steps of it. 

Then she turned and looked down again. Old Bessie's 
wrinkled face met her frightened eyes. It was smiling 
horribly. She shrank back once more, terrified. ' I can't 
do it,' she cried, ' if that woman comes up ! I 'm not afraid 
of you, dear' — she pressed Yolande's hand — 'but she, she is 
too terrible ! ' 

Hedda looked back and raised a warning finger. ' Let 
120 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

the woman stop below/ she said ; ' she savours too much of 
the evil world. We must do nothing to frighten the willing 
victim.' 

The High Priest by this time, with his ghostly fingers, 
had opened the trap-door that gave access to the summit. 
A ray of moonlight slanted through the aperture. The 
breeze blew down with it. Once more Maisie felt the 
stimulating and reviving effect of the open air. Vivified 
by its freshness, she struggled up to the top, passed out 
through the trap, and found herself standing on the open 
platform at the summit of the tower. 

The moon had not yet quite set. The light on the snow 
shone pale green and mysterious. For miles and miles 
ai'ound she could just make out, by its aid, the dim contour 
of the downs, with their thin white mantle, in the solemn 
silence. Range behind range rose faintly shimmering. 
The chant had now ceased ; the High Priest and his 
acolytes were mingling strange herbs in a mazar-bowl or 
chalice. Stray perfumes of myrrh and of cardamoms 
were wafted towards her. The men in leopards' skins 
burnt smouldering sticks of spikenard. Then Yolande led 
the postulant forward again, and placed her close up to 
the new white parapet. Stone heads of virgins smiled on 
her from the angles. ' She must front the east,' Hedda 
said in a tone of authority : and Yolande turned her face 
towards the rising sun accordingly. Then she opened 
her lips and spoke in a very solemn voice. ' From this 
new-built tower you fling yourself,' she said, or rather 
intoned, ' that you may serve mankind, and all the powers 
that be, as its guardian spirit against thunder and lightning. 
Judged a virgin, pure and unsullied in deed and word and 
thought, of royal race and ancient lineage — a Cymry of the 
Cymry — you are found worthy to be intrusted with this 
chai-ge and this honour. Take care that never shall dart 
or thunderbolt assault this tower, as She that is below you 

121 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

takes care to preserve it from eai'thquake and ruin, and She 
that is midway takes care to preserve it from battle and 
tempest. This is your charge. See well that you keep it,' 

She took her by both hands. ' Mary Llewelyn/ she said, 
' you willing victim, step on to the battlement.' 

Maisie knew not why, but with very little shrinking she 
stepped as she was told, by the aid of a wooden footstool, 
on to the eastward-looking parapet. There, in her loose 
white robe, with her arms spread abroad, and her hair flying 
free, she poised herself for a second, as if about to shake out 
some unseen wings and throw herself on the air like a swift 
or a swallow. 

' Mary Llewelyn,' Yolande said once more, in a still 
deeper tone, with ineffable earnestness, ' cast yourself down, 
a willing sacrifice, for the service of man, and the security 
of this tower against thunderbolt and lightning.' 

Maisie stretched her ai'ms wider, and leaned forward in 
act to leap, fi'om the edge of the parapet, on to the snow- 
clad churchyard. 



One second more and the sacrifice would have been com- 
plete. But before she could launch herself from the tower, 
she felt suddenly a hand laid upon her shoulder from behind 
to restrain her. Even in her existing state of nervous exalt- 
ation she was aware at once that it was the hand of a living 
and solid mortal, not that of a soul or guardian spirit. It 
lay heavier upon her than Hedda's or Yolande's. It seemed 
to clog and burden her. With a violent effort she strove to 
shake herself free, and carry out her now fixed intention of 
self-immolation, for the safety of the tower. But the hand 
was too strong for her. She could not shake it off. It 
gripped and held her. 
122 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

She yielded, and, reeling, fell back with a gasp on to the 
platform of the tower. At the selfsame moment a strange 
terror and commotion seemed to seize all at once on the 
assembled spirits. A weird cry rang voiceless through the 
shadowy company. Maisie heard it as in a dream, very dim 
and distant. It was thin as a bat's note ; almost inaudible 
to the ear, yet perceived by the brain or at least by the 
spirit. It was a cry of alarm, of fright, of warning. With 
one accord, all the host of phantoms rushed hurriedly 
forward to the battlements and pinnacles. The ghostly 
High Priest went first, with his wand held downward ; the 
men in leopards' skins and other assistants followed in 
confusion. Theirs was a reckless rout. They flung them- 
selves from the top, like fugitives from a cliff, and floated 
fast through the air on invisible pinions. Hedda and 
Yolande, ambassadresses and intermediaries with the upper 
air, were the last to fly from the living presence. They 
clasped her hand silently, and looked deep into her eyes. 
There was something in that calm yet regretful look that 
seemed to say, ' Farewell ! We have tried in vain to save 
you, sister, from the terrors of living.' 

The horde of spirits floated away on the air, as in a 
witches' Sabbath, to the vault whence it issued. The 
doors swung on their rusty hinges, and closed behind them. 
Maisie stood alone with the hand that grasped her on the 
tower. 

The shock of the grasp, and the sudden departure of the 
ghostly band in such wild dismay, threw Maisie for a while 
into a state of semi-unconsciousness. Her head reeled 
round ; her brain swam faintly. She clutched for support 
at the parapet of the tower. But the hand that held her 
sustained her still. She felt herself gently drawn down 
with quiet mastery, and laid on the stone floor close by the 
trap-door that led to the ladder. 

The next thing of which she could feel sure was the voice 

123 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

of the Oxford undergraduate. He was distinctly frightened 
and not a little tremulous. ' I think,' he said very softly, 
laying her head on his lap, ' you had better rest a while. 
Miss Llewelyn, before you try to get down again. I hope I 
didn't catch you and disturb you too hastily. But one step 
more, and you would have been over the edge. I really 
couldn't help it.' 

' Let me go,' Maisie moaned, trying to raise herself again, 
but feeling too faint and ill to make the necessary effort to 
recover the power of motion. ' I want to go with them ! I 
want to join them ! ' 

' Some of the others will be up before long,' the under- 
graduate said, supporting her head in his hands ; 'and they '11 
help me to get you down again. Mr. Yates is in the belfry. 
Meanwhile, if I were you, I 'd lie quite still, and take a drop 
or two of this brandy.' 

He held it to her lips. Maisie drank a mouthful, hardly 
knowing what she did. Then she lay quiet where he placed 
her for some minutes. How they lifted her down and con- 
veyed her to her bed she scarcely knew. She was dazed 
and terrified. She could only remember afterward that 
thi'ee or four gentlemen in roughly huddled clothes had 
carried or handed her down the ladder between them. 
The spiral stair and all the rest were a blank to her. 



VI 



When she next awoke she was lying in her bed in the same 
room at the Hall, with Mrs. West by her side, leaning over 
her tenderly. 

Maisie looked up through her closed eyes and just saw 
the motherly face and grey hair bending above her. Then 
voices came to her from the mist, vaguely : ' Yesterday was 
124 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

so hot for the thue of year, you see ! ' ' Very unusual 
weather^ of course, for Christmas.' ' But a thunderstorm ! 
So strange ! I put it down to that. The electrical dis- 
turbance must have affected the poor child's head.' Then 
it dawned upon her that the conversation she heard was 
passing between Mrs. West and a doctor. 

She raised herself suddenly and wildly on her arms. The 
bed faced the windows. She looked out and beheld — the 
tower of Wolverden church, rent from top to bottom 
with a mighty rent, while half its height lay tossed in 
fragments on the ground in the churchyard. 

' What is it ? ' she cried wildly, with a flush as of shame. 

'Hush, hush!' the doctor said. 'Don't trouble! Don't 
look at it ! ' 

' Was it — after I came down } ' Maisie moaned in vague 
terror. 

The doctor nodded. ' An hour after you were brought 
down,' he said, ' a thunderstorm broke over it. The light- 
ning struck and shattered the tower. They had not yet put 
up the lightning-conductor. It was to have been done on 
Boxing Day.' 

A weird remorse possessed Maisie's soul. ' My fault ! ' 
she cried, starting up. ' My fault, my fault ! I have 
neglected my duty I ' 

' Don't talk,' the doctor answered, looking hard at her. 
' It is always dangerous to be too suddenly aroused from 
these curious overwrought sleeps and trances.' 

' And old Bessie .'' ' Maisie exclaimed, trembling with an 
eei'ie presentiment. 

The doctor glanced at Mrs. West. ' How did she know .'' ' 
he whispered. Then he turned to Maisie. ' You may as 
well be told the truth as suspect it,' he said slowly. ' Old 
Bessie must have been watching there. She was crushed 
and half buried beneath the falling tower.' 

'One more question, Mrs. West,' Maisie murmured, grow- 

125 



WOLVERDEN TOWER 

ing faint with an access of supematui'al feai*. 'Those two 
nice girls who sat on the chairs at each side of me through 
the tableaux — are they hui't ? Were they in it ? ' 

Mrs. West soothed her hand. ' My dear child,' she said 
gravely, with quiet emphasis, ' there were iio other girls. 
This is mere hallucination. You sat alone by yourself 
through the whole of the evening.' 



126 



VI 
JANET'S NEMESIS 



JANET'S NEMESIS 

[Yoji will say atjirst, ^ A very old story I' Nay, not so. A 
psychological study of what would really happen, if a familiar 
incident of early fiction were to occur in our century. ^^ 

' Under no circumstances/ said the surgeon, in a very 
decided voice, ' will it be possible for Lady Remenham to 
take charge of her own infant.' 

' In that case,' the Earl answered, somewhat downcast, ' I 
suppose we shall have to look out for a wet-nurse.' 

' Of course,' the surgeon replied. ' You can't expect the 
baby to live upon nothing, can you .'' ' 

Lord Remenham was annoyed. In the first place, he did 
not like to hear his son and heir — then two hours old — 
cavalierly described in quite ordinary language as ' the baby.' 
To be sure, the infant viscount exactly resembled most 
other babies of those tender years — or rather minutes. He 
was red and mottled and extremely pulpy-looking; and 
his appearance in no way suggested his exalted station. 
On the contrary, his face was marked by that comparative 
absence of any particular nose and that unnecessary promin- 
ence of two watery big eyes, which suggest our consanguinity 
with the negro and the monkey. But more than that. Lord 
Remenham was annoyed at this failure, on Gwendoline's 
part, to perform the full duties of complete maternity which 
her husband expected of her. Remenham was only thirty, 
but he was austere and doctrinaire to a degree that would 
not have done dishonour to half a century. He had taken a 
I 129 



JANET'S NEMESIS 

first class in law and modern history. He was strong on the 
necessity for keeping up the physical standard of the race 
in general, and our old nobility in particular, through the 
medium of its mothers. With this laudable end in view, 
being a Balliol man himself, he had married a lawn-tennis- 
playing, cross-country-riding, good-looking young woman 
Gwendoline Blake by name, the daughter of a neighbouring 
squire ; and he looked to her to raise him up a family of 
sons and daughters of fine and sturdy old English vigour. 
That Gwendoline should thus break down at the first demand 
made upon her annoyed and surprised him. The race must 
be going to the dogs indeed, if even girls like Gwendoline 
couldn't be relied upon for the performance of the simplest 
and most obvious maternal functions. 

' Have you anybody you could suggest as a nurse for Lord 
Hurley ? ' Remenham inquired, in his chilliest voice. He 
wished to let the local doctor see he resented the imputation 
that the new viscount was a mere baby. 

'Most fortunate coincidence!' the doctor answered. 'I 
had a case last night. The very thing. She didn't con- 
template it ; but I believe the poor girl would be glad of 
the extra money. Very destitute indeed, with nothing to 
depend upon.' 

' Married, I hope ? ' Remenham observed, raising his 
eyebrows slightly. 

The doctor pursed his lips. ' We can't have everything in 
this world,' he answered, after a brief pause. ' Wet-nurses, 
as your unaided perspicacity must have observed, spring 
chiefly from the class who become mothers before they 
become wives.' 

Remenham gazed at him doubtfully. He had always a 
suspicion that the doctor was chaffing him. ' Can she come 
here at once ? ' he asked, with increased stiffness of manner. 

' Come here at once .'' ' the doctor echoed. ' Why, it was 
only last night she was confined, my lord. You don't expect 
130 



JANETS NEMESIS 

Englishwomen to rival North American squaws, do you ? 
No, no, she can't come. The baby must go to her.' 

' For how long .'' ' Remenham faltered. 

' A month, I suppose. We are most of us human. At 
the end of that time the young woman, no doubt, can take 
up her abode here.' 

' What sort of cottage ? ' Remenham asked. He disliked 
this arrangement. 

' Very clean and nice. The child could be brought round 
at frequent intervals to see Lady Remenham. There is no 
time to be lost. We had better see her and arrange with 
her immediately.' 

Remenham gave way. He gave way under protest ; but 
still he gave way. Thingumbob's food and Swiss milk 
seemed to him greater evils than this proposed arrangement. 
Gwendoline ought to have been able to take care of the 
child herself; but seeing she wasn't — well, he must needs 
fall back upon an efficient substitute. 

He accompanied the doctor to the young woman's cottage. 
He was an honest man, who acted up to his convictions ; 
and where anybody so important as Viscount Hurley was 
concerned, he would not trust to the services of any inter- 
mediary. He saw the young woman himself — Janet Wells 
by name ; a very good-looking young person, strong, tall, 
and vigorous ; just the sort of girl whom, on any but moral 
grounds, one would desire to intrust with the keeping of 
one's children. He asked her a question or two, with 
rfoc/n»a»-e stiffness, and was astonished to find she resented 
some of them. However, though she was at first most 
averse to giving up her own baby, to which she attached an 
enormous importance — ' and very properly too,' Remenham 
thought, ' for the instinct of maternity lies at the root of 
race preservation ' — she was at last bribed over by promises 
of money into accepting the charge of the infant viscount. 
It was further arranged that the noble baby should be 

131 



JANET'S NEMESIS 

brought to her, well wrapped up, at once, and that her own 
plebeian infant, for better security of the high-born child, 
should be conveyed away forthwith, to be brought up by 
hand at a married sister's, lest the mother should be tempted 
to share with it the natural sustenance duly bought and paid 
for on account of Lord Hurley. 

As soon as they were gone, however, Janet turned to her 
mother. ' Mother,' she said firmly, ' I won't send my baby 
away — no, not for any one's.' 

' What will you do, then } ' her mother asked. * They 're 
sure to ax what's become o' it.' 

Janet reflected a minute or two. Then she said in a 
tentative way, ' We could borrow Sarah Marlowe's baby, and 
keep it in the house till they fetch the lady's. Then we 
could send it away by their men to Lucy's, and tell them to 
watch, if they liked, whether any other baby ever came 
back again. Sarah Marlowe could fetch her own from Lucy's 
to-morrow. 

' If I was you,' the mother said, ' I wouldn't cast no doubts 
upon it.' 

'That's true,' Janet answered feebly. 'Just send Sarah's 
baby away to Lucy's without saying nothing about it.' And 
she dropped back on her pillow in a listless way, adding 
nothing further. 

So it came to pass that when little Lord Hurley arrived, 
squat nose, mottled arms, red face, and all, there were three 
babies in the cottage instead of two ; and Avhen the third, 
which was Sarah Marlowe's, was sent away under charge of 
Lord Remenham himself to the married sister's, Janet's and 
the lordling remained in possession, to fight it out between 
themselves as best they might as to their natural sustenance. 

That evening, Janet submitted to have her own baby fed 

upon Somebody's food, while she nursed the interloper as if 

it were her own. But all the time she felt like a murderess. 

How dare she deprive that child she had borne of its divinely- 

132 



JANET'S NEMESIS 

sent nourishment ! Her heart — a mother's heart — turned 
sick within her. Come what mighty she would nurse her 
own baby, she vowed internally, not the Countess's. She 
revolted against this unnatural and cruel diversion. 

In the dead of night, therefore, when all in the house 
were asleep, she arose tottering from her bed, and approached 
the two cradles. Babies are much alike; her own and the 
lordling looked so precisely similar that even she herself, 
but for the clothes, could hardly have discriminated them. 
Hastily and with trembling fingers she tore off the sleeping 
young aristocrat's finery — he wore a trifle less of it at night 
than by day — and also undressed her own red little bantling. 
In two minutes' time the momentous transformation was 
fully complete. The Countess herself could not have told 
her own child, as it lay there and slept, from the cottager's 
infant. 

Once done, the substitution cost no trouble of any sort. 
Next morning Janet saw the baby — her baby, in its borrowed 
finery — washed and dressed and duly taken care of; while 
she took little heed of the lordly changeling in its poorer 
garb, as her mother fed it in a perfunctory way out of the 
bottle. Somewhat later in the day, indeed, she looked at 
her mother queerly. ' After all, mother,' she said, blinking, 
' there 's something in blood. I think the little lord looks 
more of a baby nor mine does somehow.' And she smiled 
at her own child, in his stolen plumes, contentedly. 

' He's a pi-oper baby, that he is,' her mother admitted, 
not suspecting the substitution. 

' I was thinking,' Janet put in, ' that perhaps it isn't safe 
to keep my baby in the house now at all. They might make 
a fuss if they were to find it out. Since this one 's come, 
and I 've begun nursing him, he seems to belong to me, 
almost. Suppose we was to send my own to Lucy's, to be 
brought up by hand. It 'ud be kind of safer like.' 

The mother acquiesced, not sorry to see that unwelcome 

133 



JANET'S NEMESIS 

intruder, as she thought it, stowed safely out of the way. 
So that very night, the real little Lord Hurley w^as ignomi- 
niously despatched by private messenger to the married 
sister's; while the false Lord Hurley, just as red and as 
mottled, stopped on with his mother in his appropriated 
feathers. 

For ten months, at home and at the castle, Janet nursed 
her own baby honestly and sedulously. She wasted upon it 
the whole of a mother's affection. Gradually, when she 
began to realise what she had done, it occurred to her that 
perhaps she had not acted for herself with the supremest 
wisdom. At first, her one idea had been the purely instinc- 
tive and natural one that she wanted to nurse and tend her 
own baby — not another woman's. But, joined with this 
prime instinct, there had also been present more or less to 
her mind another feeling — the feeling that her baby had as 
good a right in the nature of things to wealth and honour, 
and uncomfortably belaced and beflounced baby-linen, as 
any other woman's baby. The pressure of these two ideas, 
acting unequally together, had led her in a moment of 
hysterical impulse to exchange the two children. Now the 
exchange was once made it satisfied her very well — while 
she could keep her own baby. The question was, Hoav 
would things stand when the time came for her to part with 
it.? 

In due course it came about that the two infants were 
christened. Lord and Lady Remenham had Janet's child 
admitted into the fold of the Church with the aid of a bishop, 
and a considerable admixture of those pomps and vanities of 
this wicked world which they simultaneously and verbally 
abjured for it. Janet herself, as by office entitled, brought 
the baby to the font, where a Countess held it, while a 
Marchioness assisted her in promising on its behalf a large 
number of things, which nobody very seriously intended to 
perform for it. The child was enrolled as an infantile Chris- 
134. 



JANETS NEMESIS 

tian under the sonorous names of Hugh Seymour Planta- 
genet, which in themselves might be regarded as slight 
guarantees that the pomps and vanities aforesaid would be 
duly avoided. As to the Countess's son, he was baptized at 
the parish church of the village by the curate. Sister Lucy 
held him at the font^ and abjured for him, with far greater 
sincerity and probability, all participation in the sins of the 
great world, from which Janet's action had effectually cut 
him off. As for a name, Plantagenets being out of the 
question, he was cheaply and economically baptized as 
William, 

Thus those two began their way through the world : the 
cottager's unwelcome baby as the heir of an Earl ; and the 
Countess's son as the illegitimate child of a discredited 
housemaid. 

While the ten months lasted Janet was happy enough. 
She had her child with her, and she had assured its future. 
But as the period of wet-nursing drew towards a close, and 
there was talk of weaning, a terrible longing began to come 
over her. Must she send away her baby, her own dear baby, 
now she was just getting to love it far better than ever.'' — 
now it 'took notice ' so sweetly, and returned her smile, and 
looked up into her eyes with those big, black eyes, that 
recalled its father ? It was too, too cruel. The neighbours 
had noted that, while Janet was nursing the little lord, as 
they thought, she had taken small note of her own neglected 
baby, sent away to be brought up by hand at her sister 
Lucy's. ' 'Tis that way always with love-children,' they 
said ; ' partic'larly when the mother hires herself out 
a-wetnursing. She don't want none of her own. Her heart 
is all set on the baby she 's suckling.' Janet heard them as in 
a di'eam, and smiled to herself with a strange, sad smile, half 
superior knowledge, half regret and remoi-se ; not indeed for 
her act, but for its coming consequence. ' She knows the 
baby 's a lord,' the neighbours said, ' and she don't want none 

135 



JANETS NEMESIS 

of her own love-child after it.' Not want none of her own, 
indeed ! It was because it was her own that she couldn't 
bear to part with it^ though she knew it was for the child's 
best : she had secured its future. But what was its future 
to her — if it must be taken away from her and made into a 
lord, never to know its own mother ? 

Nevertheless, fight against it and shrink from it as she 
might, the time came at last when her baby must needs be 
taken from her; or rather, when she must leave it, for from 
the end of the first month she had lived at the castle, well 
cared for and waited upon, and treated in everything as such 
an important person as Lord Hurley's wet-nurse deserves 
to be treated. But now Lady Remenham's orders were 
absolute — that woman who was stealing her baby from her, 
under pretence of its being her own : the child must be 
weaned within a fortnight, and Janet must leave the castle 
for ever. 

The dark day came. With a horrible sinking Janet pre- 
pared to go. The baby clung to her, as if it knew what was 
happening. She tore herself away, more dead than alive. Lady 
Remenham admitted she was very fond of the child. ' Fond 
of the child, Gwendoline ! ' Lord Remenham exclaimed, 
with greater truth : ' her conduct has been most exemplary. 
We owe her a debt of the deepest gratitude. My only 
feeling is that I 've sometimes had qualms of conscience, 
when I saw how completely we had perverted — or shall I 
say diverted .'' — her natural instincts. I 've felt at moments 
she was centring upon Hugh affections which should have 
been centred upon her own poor wronged and neglected baby.' 

' You're always so absurdly conscientious,' Lady Remenham 
replied, with her flippant air. ' We 've paid the girl well for it.' 

' Her } Yes, her. But not her child,' Remenham 

answered, with his deeper sense of equity. ^ Her child, 

from whom we 've bribed her against her will by our offer 

of money. And the more she has grown to love our baby — 

136 



JANETS NEMESIS 

which she has undoubtedly done, Gwen — the more have I 
felt my indebtedness to her infant. I shall provide for that 
child.' And Remenham, who was a man with a conscience, 
did provide for him decently. The Countess laughed .at 
him. She did not know she was laughing at him for making 
due provision for their own baby. 

Remenham had his way, however. He was a quiet, forc- 
ible man. He provided Janet with a lump sum down, in 
ready money, which he placed at a bank for her ; and he 
took a lodging-house for her in a Thames valley town, 
neither too near nor too remote — near enough for her to 
keep touch with her parents C Which is essential,' he said, 
' to keeping straight with women of her class ') ; yet far 
enough away for her to call herself ' Mrs. Wells,' without 
much fear of contradiction by her neighbours. ' You have 
now a chance, my girl,' he said, with his superior and con- 
descending kindliness, ' of retrieving your position. Behave 
well, and some good young man of your own class may still 
make honourable love to you.' 

But Janet was so overwhelmed with distress at leaving her 
child — the child for whose future she had provided so fatally 
— that she cared little just at present for the good young 
man, or the honourable love he was still to offer her. Her 
whole being for the moment was summed up in wounded 
affection for the child of the worthless creature who had got 
her into this trouble, and then basely enlisted in order to 
desert her. And the sense that she had brought this second 
bereaval upon herself by her foolish action only made her 
grief more poignant. She felt no particular remorse for her 
betrayal of Lord Remenham and his countess — most young 
women of her class are not built for such remorse, — but she 
suffered agonies of distress at the loss of her baby. 

'You'll have your own little one back again now,' her 
mother said to her, the first evening, while preparations for 
the move were being made in the cottage. 

137 



JANETS NEMESIS 

Her own little one ! Janet's heart gave a start. She had 
hardly even thought of that other baby — the Countess's 
baby — the baby at Lucy's. She supposed she must have hira 
back. 

'Oh, I '11 get him in a day or two,' she answered listlessly. 
* But he '11 never be the same to me as — as the dear little 
thing I 've been nursing for my lady.' 

Her mother gazed hard at her. 

' 'Tis strange,' she said ; ' 'tis always so with foster-mothers. 
It seems as if love went out of one with the mother's milk. 
If you nurse another woman's baby you get fonder of it, they 
say, nor you would of your own. 'Tis no use denying it. 
The good Lord has made us so.' 

Janet rose from her chair and took refuge in her own bed- 
room. There, sobbing low to herself, as one must do in a 
cottage, lest one's sobs should be heard through the thin 
partitions, she rolled and cried, hugging herself wildly at the 
deadly irony of it. Love any other child better than her own 
dear baby ! Why, she hated the very thought of having that 
other one back. How could she endure to bring it up } 
And, then, to think of the long years through which she must 
go on pretending to love it ! 

However, for fear's sake and the neighbours', there was 
nothing for her to do but to take back the child that had 
been christened William, and to make believe to her mother 
that she took some care of it. So she brought it away from 
Lucy's, and carried it home to the cottage, while prepara- 
tions still went on for the move to the lodging-house. Her 
first thoughts of it were almost murderous. Bring up that 
brat — that puling child of Lady Remenham's — that boy that 
had dispossessed her of her own dear pet ! — no, no, she 
could not do it. For a week or two she would pretend to 
take care of it, for form's sake ; ' but there 's plenty of ways,' 
she thought, ' you can get rid of babies a long way short of 
strangling them. There always comes turns when you can 
138 



JANET'S NEMESIS 

hardly nurse 'em through, Avith the best care you can give 
'em. Neglect 'em then, and you 're soon enough free from 
'em.' 

However, the first night baby Willie came home, she 
undressed him and tended him as she had tended Hugh 
Seymour Plantagenet, her own lordly babe — tended that 
Countess's brat who had hitherto been accustomed to the 
tender mei'cies of Lucy's bringing up by hand, in the pre- 
carious intervals of her dairy work and her charge of her own 
five half-starved little ones. Baby Willie took to the new 
nurse instantly. In her heart Janet despised the unclassed 
little lordling. Accustomed as she was to her own noble 
Hugh, with his exquisite baby-linen, his beautiful cradle, 
and his embroidered coronet, she thought small things in- 
deed of the poor wee changeling, who had been brought up 
by hand in a labourer's cottage and swathed in such clothes 
as she had provided beforehand for her own unwelcome, un- 
classed infant. Nevertheless, she had acquired at the castle 
a certain fastidious way of taking care of a baby ; and, 
mechanically at first, by the mere routine habits of the Eng- 
lish housemaid, she went on taking care of the Countess's 
brat with the same solicitude she had been accustomed to 
lavish upon Hugh Seymour Plantagenet. 

Little by little a curious feeling began to come over her. 
Every night and every morning she looked after baby Willie, 
and did for him all the things she had been accustomed to 
do in the night-nursery at the Earl's, for the reputed Lord 
Hurley. And even as she did them she was dimly aware 
that they afforded her a certain curious consolation and 
comfort in her bereavement. Having lost her own baby, 
for all practical purposes (by her own act, yet unwillingly), 
it pleased her at least to have some other child upon whom 
she might continue to expend those motherly cares which 
were at first an instinct, and had now come to be a habit 
with her. Even so, people who have lost a child of their 

139 



JANETS NEMESIS 

own often wish to adopt one of corresponding age, not to 
break continuity in the current of their feehngs. When 
Janet first had to give up her own baby, it is true, she hated 
the very thought of being compelled to tend that child 
of the Countess's. But after a week or two of the other 
woman's baby, she found the comfort of having still a child 
to think about so great and so consoling, that not for worlds 
would she have relinquished the pleasure of tending it. 

Meanwhile, the move to the neighbouring town had been 
made, and Janet had taken up her new position in life as 
mistress of a lodging-house. Before her baby was born she 
would have thought that position a very ' grand ' one, and 
would have felt afraid of actually ordering about a servant 
of her own ; but ten months at the castle had wrought a 
vast difference in her point of view : she was accustomed 
there to be petted and waited upon ; a footman in silk 
stockings had brought up her meals to the day-nursery, for 
she had received in every way the amount of consideration 
that should naturally be paid to Lord Hurley's foster-mother. 
So she found it ' rather a come-down in life,' as she said, 
than otherwise, to go straight from being waited upon by 
lordly flunkeys to receiving orders for dinner from casual 
lodgers. However, being a tall young woman of some grace 
and dignity, she gave a certain importance to her new posi- 
tion, and was treated as a rule with considerable respect by 
the better class of her visitors. Her plain black dress, her 
slight affectation of widowhood, and her undeniable care and 
attention for her baby, impressed them with the idea that 
Mrs. Wells, as they called her, was ' a most superior young 
woman for her station.' And in point of fact Janet had 
been well grounded in fundamentals at the village school, 
and made ' a lodging-house lady ' as good as the best of 
them. 

Her rooms, for the most part, were full in summer with 
waterside visitors, though half empty in winter, when the 
140 



JANETS NEMESIS 

season was dull ; but with what she made by them, and what 
Lord Remenham allowed her, she managed to live in a style 
which her new class considered extremely comfortable. 
Meanwhile Willie grew on, and, to her own great surprise at 
first, Janet found herself constantly more and more attached 
to him. The child was with her all day ; she taught it to walk, 
to talk, to dress itself ; if it had been her very own, it could 
hardly have been much nearer to her. Gradually she felt it 
was filling the place in her heart that her own dear baby had 
once better filled ; and though she shrank from the recognition 
of that fact, far more than she had shrunk from the first sub- 
stitution, it forced itself upon her, whether she would or not, 
from month to month, with increasing distinctness. 

Three times a year ' Mrs. Wells ' returned by permission 
to the castle, to visit once more her own lost darling. Lord 
Remenham was touched by her constant attachment to 
' Hughie,' and even the Countess admitted in her cold way 
that ' Wells had behaved throughout in the most exemplary 
manner ' ; there was no denying the reality of her attach- 
ment to her foster-son. But as little Lord Hurley reached 
seven and eight, Janet was aware of a painful element, which 
grew more and more marked in these occasional visits. It 
was clear each time that Hugh cared less and less to see her. 
To say the truth, these four-monthly outbursts of spasmodic 
affection on the part of a stranger distinctly bored the child. 
He didn't care twopence himself about Mrs. Wells, whom he 
was told by his father he ought to love ' because she was his 
foster-mother ' — a phrase which conveyed to him about as 
much information as if he had been told that Janet was his 
residuary legatee or his feudal suzerain. At first he merely 
felt the stated visits a vague nuisance ; they interfered with 
his playing : but as time went on, he learned to hate them, 
and to shrink from being ' slobbered over,' as he expressed 
it, by a woman for whom he had not any feeling on earth 
save one of mild though growing aversion. At last, he 

141 



JANETS NEMESIS 

flatly refused to see Mrs. Wells at all ; and when Lord 
Remenham interfered, and insisted, in his honest, stiff- 
necked way, that Hugh must 'show some gratitude to the 
woman who had saved his life,' the boy showed it by 
receiving her with marked ungraciousness, and audibly 
exclaiming, in a voice of relief, 'Well, thank goodness, 
that 's over ! ' as she left his presence. 

Had this happened when he was two years old, or even 
three, it would have broken Janet's heart by its cruel irony. 
But happening when he was ten, it affected her far less 
poignantly than she could herself have anticipated. She 
had grown meanwhile to be fonder and fonder of Willie — 
' My own dear boy,' as she now called him to herself; she 
took less and less notice, thought less and less meanwhile, of 
the arrogant young aristocrat whom she had brought into 
the world to be the Countess's plaything. Willie was so 
sweet and good, and so deeply attached to her ; while Hugh 
had rapidly developed what she could not but consider the 
haughtiness of his class, and seemed to think his real mother 
' like the dirt beneath his feet,' as she said to herself bitterly. 
Moreover, she had another cause of grievance against the 
sturdy little viscount. He was strong and vigoi-ous, with 
the robust constitution inherited from a peasant father and 
mother ; while Willie, her own dear Willie, was weak and 
ailing, and often required her most tender nursing. Wlien 
he was only two years old, indeed, he had a terrible attack 
of croup, which nearly carried him off; and as Janet sat up 
all night, with clasped hands and streaming eyes, watching 
by the couch of the other woman's son, it came home to her 
all at once that to lose Willie now would be ten thousand 
times worse for her than to lose her own boy, the false 
Lord Hurley. 

So things went on for several years : though after the 
little episode of ' Thank goodness, that 's over ! ' Janet went 
back no more on her formal visits to the castle. She wrote 
142 



JANETS NEMESIS 

Lord Remenham a most dignified and sensible letter upon 
the subject — just a trifle marred by her housemaidenly 
handwriting. ' I could not help seeing, my lord,' she said, 
with simple eloquence, ' on my last visit to the castle, that 
my dear foster-child no longer regards me with any affection. 
As that is so, much as it grieves me, I think I had better 
discontinue my visits. I love him as deeply and as dearly 
as ever ; but I love him too well to desire to hurt him, by 
inflicting myself upon him when he doesn't want me.' 

Remenham read the letter aloud as a penance to Hugh ; 
who responded with eff"usion, ' Well, that 's one good thing, 
anyhow !' He was deaf to his father's expressions of regret 
that he should have so alienated the feelings of a good 
woman, who loved him. ' What right had she to call me 
"my Hughie"?'he asked, with warmth. 'Why, Charlie 
says she's nothing at all but a common lodging-house 
woman.' Charlie was Hugh's friend, a boy-groom at the 
stables. 

Remenham felt this conduct on Hurley's part so bitterly, 
that he actually went across to the neighbouring town to 
call upon Janet, and apologise to her for his son's coldness. 
But he chanced on a day when Willie was ill and kept home 
from school. The boy's delicacy struck him. ' Is he often 
so } ' he asked, with a heart-pang. 

' Well, he 's never been strong, my lord,' Janet answered 
truthfully ; ' having been brought up by hand, you know — 
it never does suit them.' And as she spoke a sudden 
dagger went through her heart all at once, to think she 
should have starved that dear boy of the nourishment his 
father the Earl had bought and paid for — in order to feed 
that strong and healthy and ungrateful young aristocrat, 
her boy, Hugh Seymour Plantagenet, Viscount Hurley. 

The Earl recounted it all at length to his wife that night. 
' Gwen,' he said seriously, ' we had no right to do it. I 
must provide better for that boy. I shall allow his mother 

143 



JANETS NEMESIS 

a hundred a year for his education. He 's a most intelligent 
child, with excellent faculties ; and I 'm sure he 'd do credit 
to any pains bestowed upon him.' 

' My dear/ the Countess answered, ' you shall do nothing 
so quixotic' 

The natural result of which was that the Earl did it, and 
said no more about it. 

This princely allowance for her boy's education stirred up 
in Janet's mind a fresh ambition. Like all dwellers in the 
Thames valley, she knew well the name and the fame of 
Oxford. It loomed large in her eyes, as the metropolis of 
the river. 'Twas not so much as a great university, however, 
that Oxford appealed to her, but as a place where men lived 
and learned to be gentlemen — real waterside gentlemen, in 
white sweaters and red blazers and straw hats with banded 
ribbons. Oxford men came often to her lodgings in the 

summer with the cardinal's hat or the red cross embroidered 

on their jerseys, — and she recognised the fact that there was 
a Something about them. Why should not her boy, her 
own dear Willie, be sent to Oxford, and there manufactured 
into a real gentleman? Manufactured.^ Why, he was a 
o-entleman born — and a nobleman too, if it came to that, 
and the real Lord Hurley ! If she sent him to Oxford, she 
mio-ht undo some part of the terrible wrong she had done 
him long since in depriving him of his birthright — a wrong 
which, brought home to her now she loved him, was be- 
ginning to weigh upon her soul not a little ; for with our 
peasant class, incapable of any broad abstract ideas, you must 
have a personal substratum of emotional feeling to work 
upon in every case, before there can be any real recognition 
of right and wrong in their wider aspects. It was a wild 
ambition, perhaps, for a lodging-house keeper to entertain ; 
but there was a good grammar-school in the town, where 
the boys wore square college caps ; and with Lord Remen- 
ham's hundred a year, a great deal was possible. She would 
144 



JANETS NEMESIS 

begin saving it up, for it was to be paid to her quarterly 
at once ; and by the time her boy was of an age to go to 
Oxford, she would have enough to send him there — and 
to live herself in such a way as not to disgrace him. 

Thenceforth she saved with the petty, penurious, argus- 
eyed saving of the lesser bourgeoisie. Not so far as Willie 
was concerned, however. For him, she spent all she could 
afford, to keep him neat and well dressed, and to let him 
associate with other boys who were fit companions for a 
destined Oxford man. Nay, more : hard as it was for her to 
refuse them, she took no more big schoolboys or Oxford men 
as lodgers in summer : no undergraduate henceforth should 
ever be able to say, 'I know that man — I lodged with his 
mother a couple of years ago.' Year after year she saved up, 
and sent Willie to the grammar-school, and dressed him well, 
and took every fond care of him. And year after year she 
loved him more and more, with the ardent love one lavishes 
on those for whom one has worked and endured and suffered. 
Yet ever amidst it all came the gnawing thought, ' All I can 
do for him is as nothing now, compared to what I have taken 
from him. I deprived him of an earldom ; and I can educate 
him, perhaps, to be a curate or a schoolmaster.' 

As for Willie, he loved and admired his mother — as he 
naturally called her. He was fond of her and proud of her ; 
for she was tall and handsome ; she 'held her head up ' ; 
and he could see how hard she worked to keep the family 
' respectable.' He honoured her for that wish ; for he had 
inherited the Earl's conscientious, conventional, honest, 
doctrinaire nature. He was prouder of her by far than he 
would have been of the Countess. When he was getting to 
be seventeen, it began to strike Janet that her occasional 
lapses in grammar, though more and more infrequent as she 
got on in the world, were a source of pain or humiliation to 
her boy ; and she said to him frankly, ' Correct me, WiUie, 
and explain whi/ to me.' He corrected and explained ; and 
K 145 



JANET'S NEMESIS 

Janet, who was naturally clear-headed, sensible, and logical, 
understood and grasped the principles he expounded to her. 
She took pains with her English. As he got on at school- 
he was head of his class always, and took all the prizes, 
especially in classics — she felt still more of a desire not to 
shame her boy when he should go to Oxford ; and with this 
intent she made him read her books, and read them herself 
— Tennyson, Dickens, Thackeray, the current novelists — so 
that she might at least avoid putting her foot in it when 
she heard them talked of. And being a woman of remark- 
able mother-wit and quickness, she found very soon, to her 
immense surprise, that she could talk of many such things a 
great deal better than some silly ' real ladies.' 

It was a glorious day when, soon after Willie was nineteen, 
her boy returned from a week's visit to that marvellous 
Oxford one day, with the incredibly great news that he had 
won a junior studentship at Christ Church. (That is the 
name at ' the House ' for what anywhere else would be called 
a scholarship.) It was worth eighty pounds a year, and, 
with Lord Remenham's allowance, it would enable him to 
live like a gentleman at Oxford. Janet made a rapid 
calculation in her own mind. Yes, yes; she could allow 
him seventy pounds more herself, which would give him an 
income of £250 ; and yet, by expending all her little savings 
in one wild burst, she would be able to live at Oxford 
herself, in quiet lodgings, for three years, like a lady, so as 
not to disgrace him ! 

One thing alone poisoned her happiness in this hour of 
triumph. Willie added at last, with a touch of not unnatural 
pleasure, ' And I beat some fellows from the biggest schools 
— from Eton and Harrow ; amongst others, Lord Hurley.' 

A stab went straight through the mother's heart, or rather, 
the foster-mother's — for it was not Hugh she was thinking 
of. 'Will he go to Christ Church with you.''' she asked, 
trembling. 
146 



JANET S NEMESIS 

'Yes, mother dear, but without a studentship.' 

Strange thoughts coursed quickly through Janet's head. 
That young aristocrat, her own son, might be rude to her 
dear boy. How much did he know ? How much did he 
remember.^ It was fortunate she had left off going to see 
him at the castle when he was ten years old. Perhaps the 
whole episode might have faded from his memory. But 
the Earl would know. And the Earl might tell him. 

At that moment, if she didn't hate Hugh, at least she 
feared him. And such fear as hers was not far from 
hatred. 

October term came. It was the hour of freshmen. And 
when Lord Hurley set out from the castle, his father (or rather 
his reputed father) said to him as his last word, ' You know 
your foster-mother's boy, young Wells, gained that junior 
studentship that you missed, Hurley. Be sure, my boy, for 
our sake, that you are kind to him.' 

'All right, father,' Hurley answered, as he jumped into 
the dogcart which was to take him to the station. But 
he added to himself, with a smile, ' Just like my father ! 
Wants to make me polite to every deserving young cad 
who happens to interest him.' 

Three days later Janet was walking down the High, with 
her boy in cap and gown, proud and delighted as she had 
never been before in that strange varied life of hers. It 
was a moment of pure triumph. All at once, from a window 
overhead, she heard a murmur of voices. They came from 
a first-floor window of a club of undergraduates, which was 
gay even then with flowers in boxes. 

'Why, that's the woman we lodged with three or four 
years ago when we stopped by the river!' — one voice 
exclaimed — the voice of an Oriel commoner. ' How awfully 
odd ! And she 's walking with a 'Varsity man ! ' 

' Yes,' a second voice drawled. ' Devilish odd, isn't it .'' 
That 's my old fostei'-mother, Mrs, Wells ; and she 's walking 

147 



JANET'S NEMESIS 

with her son. He's a protege of my fathei's ; and he's got 
a junior studentship at the House. Rum combination, 
ain't it .'' ' 

Janet glanced at Willie. He had not a mother's ears, 
like hers ; and the had not heard them. He walked on 
smiling, unaware of this calamity. 

Janet Wells went home to her lodgings that night in an 
agony of misery. The Nemesis of her wrong-doing had 
come home to her indeed. She was paying her penalty. 
To think there was a day when she fancied she would like 
to strangle her Willie, because he had taken Hugh from 
her ! Why, she hated Hugh now ! Hated him even more 
profoundly and fiercely, by far, than she had ever loved him. 
That baseborn son of a drunken soldier to scorn her own 
boy — her good, gentle Willie ! 

The drunken soldier's son had deprived her Willie of his 
birthright and his earldom ! And, worse than all, she had 
helped him to do it ! 

She did not undress that night. She lay upon her bed in 
her clothes, and tossed and turned, and moaned and suffered. 
It was irrevocable now — quite, quite irrevocable. If she 
went to Lord Remenham and told him her tale to-morrow, 
how cotdd he believe her ? it was all too stale, too strange, 
too romantic — and hackneyed romantic at that — for any one 
to accept it. People would say she had been reading the 
Family Herald tales ; or that her head was full of Lady 
Clare and Lord Ronald. What on earth could be more im- 
probable, at our own time of day, than a tale of a changeling .'' 
and who on earth would swallow it on her unaided evidence .'' 

She had dispossessed her boy, and, more terrible than all, 
she had laid him open to Lord Hurley's cruel condescensions 
— the cruel condescensions of the soldier's bastard. 

Early next morning she rose, dressed her tumbled hair 
carefuUv, made herself as neat as she could with a flower 
in her bodice, and despatched a hurried note to Willie at 
148 



JANET'S NEMESIS 

Christ Church. 'Come at once/ it said, 'to your heart- 
broken mother.' 

Willie rushed rounds wondering. Then, pale of face and 
haggard of eye, Janet began to confess to him. She did 
not even sob : it was far beyond sobbing. She told him 
first what she had heard Lord Hurley say at the window 
the night before. Then she made a dramatic pause : ' And 
that boy,' she added, ' is my own son, Willie.' 

For a second Willie thought she was mad. Then he 
looked in her face, her white, bloodless face, and saw she 
was speaking the truth under strong emotion. 

'How do you mean, mother.^' he gasped. 

Janet told him the whole tale, simply, in a few strong 
Avords, with peasant brevity and peasant absence of self- 
justification. She had done it, that was all — for ample 
reason at the time ; and now she was paying for it. 

When she had finished she looked him in the face. 

'You don't believe it.''' she cried defiantly. 

He took her hands in his. 

' Dear mother,' he said, ' I believe it. I believe you 
always. You never deceived me. I believe it ; and I am 
sorry — for one thing only. If I am not your son, you take 
from me a thing I valued most of all — for I was proud to be 
the son of such a mother.' 

Those words repaid her for years of anguish. She strained 
him to her bosom. ' My boy, my boy,' she cried, ' I have 
robbed you of your inheritance ! ' 

'The inheritance of your blood,' Willie answered, 'yes. 
The other, I don't care about.' 

She clasped him again. At least she would die happy. 

' What can we do ? ' she cried. ' Can I confess to Loi'd 
Remenham ? ' 

He shook his head. 

' Oh no,' he answered. ' It would do no good. We 
should both be regarded as absurd impostors. Nobody 

149 



JANET'S NEMESIS 

would believe it — except myself. All the rest would think 
it was a foolish lie — and I had egged you on to tell it.' 

She held him tight against her breast. 

' Don't be afraid,' she said. ' I will hold my tongue. I 
will not again destroy your prospects.' 

They sat together in her rooms all that day, for the most 
part in silence, holding one another's hands in mute sym- 
pathy. On the stroke of midnight he left her, as he must, 
to return to college. 

' Good-night, dearest ! ' he said, with a strange foreboding. 
' Remember, I do not blame you in anything. I understand 
all ; and a French proverb says, " To understand all is to 
pardon all." ' 

She kissed him hysterically and let him go at once, with- 
out one word of leave-taking. 

By the first post next morning he received two notes from 
her. One was formal, and intended only for the inspection 
of the coronei'. It spoke of nothing but sleeplessness, 
depression, narcotics. The other ran thus : — 

' Mv OWN, OWN Darling, 

' I do not wish to murder the son I bore. But if I remain 
alive I feel I must rush upon Hurley, wherever I meet him, and 
stab him. I am not even sure it is because he is my own child that 
I want to spare him — is it not rather because I do not wish people 
to say your mother was a murderess ? So, good-bye for ever. 
Willie, my Willie, I have wronged you deeply ; I will wrong you 
no more. They will think it was merely an overdose of morphia. 

' Your loving 

' Mother.' 

The jury returned it ' Death by Misadventure.' 



150 



INTERMEZZO 
LANGALULA 



LANGALULA 

Langalula was a great chief. The people he ruled were 
numerous and warlike : his assegais were ten thousand : his 
tribe had many cattle. So the Missionary at his kraal was 
glad indeed when he felt he had touched Langalula's heart ; 
for it meant the conversion of a whole heathen nation. 

When the king goes over^ the people soon follow him. 

Langalula said, * I am convinced ; baptize me.' 

But the ways of white men, are they not incomprehensible? 
Though the Missionary had been preaching that very thing 
for months, yet when Langalula gave in he answered, ' Con- 
viction alone is not enough. You must wait a while till I 
feel that your life shows forth works meet for repentance.' 
Langalula grumbled. He was little accustomed to such 
contradiction. But he knew it was hard arguing with these 
priestly white men, who will baptize a starving slave every 
bit as soon as a great chief; so he held his peace, and, 
though he chafed at it, waited the Missionary's pleasure. 

By and by, one day, the Missionary came to him. 
' Langalula,' he said condescendingly, * I have watched you 
close for many weeks now, and I think I can baptize you.' 

"^Then all my sins will be forgiven .> ' asked Langalula. 

' All your sins will be forgiven,' the Missionary answered. 

' But I must put away my wives ? ' Langalula asked once 
more. 

' All save one,' answered the Missionary. It was a point 
of doctrine, or at least of discipline. 

153 



LANGALULA 

' Then I think,' Langalula said, ' I will wait for a week — 
so as to make up ray mind which one of them is dearest 
to me.' 

But he said this deceitfully, knowing in his own heart 
that all his sins were going to be forgiven, and determining 
in the interval to marry another wife, whom he would keep 
as his companion when he put away the others. For there 
was a young girl coming on, black but comely, the daughter 
of Khamsua, a neighbouring chief, whom Langalula had seen, 
and whom he wished to purchase. And since the last love 
is always (for the moment) the greatest, the chief cared very 
little whether he must put away all his other wives or not, 
if only he could keep Malali. She had driven out the rest 
of them. He had watched the girl growing up at Khamsua's 
for years, and had said to himself always, ' Whenever Malali 
is of marriageable age, see if I do not buy her and marry 
her.' 

In pursuance of this plan, as soon as the Missionary was 
gone, Langalula rose up, and took the fighting men of his 
tribe with him (that there might be no dispute), and 
marched into the country of Malali's father, whose name, as 
I said, was Khamsua. When Khamsua heard Langalula was 
on his way to his land with five thousand assegais, not to 
speak of Winchester rifles, he went out to meet him with a 
great retinue. 

Khamsua cringed. Langalula said to him, ' I am come to 
ask for Malali.' 

The moment Khamsua heard that saying, he was un- 
speakably terrified, and flung himself down on his face, and 
clasped Langalula's knees. For Khamsua was only a small 
chief in the country compared with Langalula. 

' O my king,' Khamsua said, ' O lion of the people, how 

could I know so great a monarch as you had set his eyes on 

Malali ? and before you asked — woe, woe ! — Montelo's people 

came, and offered oxen on Montelo's behalf for Malali. 

154 



LANGALULA 

And I sold her to them, because I was afraid of Montelo, 
and could not have believed so great a chief as you had ever 
looked upon her.' 

Langalula smiled at that. ' Oh, as for Montelo,' he said, 
' I can easily take her from him ; and then I can get the 
Missionary to marry us.' 

Khamsua, however, answered like a fool. ' It cannot be. 
The Christians are so strait-laced. Montelo is a Christian 
now ; he was baptized a week ago ; and Malali was married 
to him in Christian fashion. Even if you were to kill 
Montelo and take her to your kraal, I don't believe the 
Missionary would marry you.' 

Langalula turned to his men. ' Kill him,' he said simply. 
And they killed him with an assegai. 

As soon as that was finished, Langalula marched on into 
Montelo's country. When he arrived there, Montelo crept 
out to meet him and tried to parley with him. But Langalula 
would not parley with the man who had deprived him of 
Malali. ' We will fight for it,' he said angrily. And they 
fought for it, then and there. The upshot of it all was that 
Langalula's men conquered in the battle, and drove 
Montelo's men (who had no Winchesters) back to their 
king's kraal; and then they killed Montelo himself, and 
carried his head on an assegai. 

By the very same evening they occupied the kraal that 
had once been Montelo's, and Langalula's men brought 
out Malali to their own leader. Langalula looked hard at 
her. She was a glossy-black girl, very smooth-skinned and 
lithe, and clean of limb. The great chief stared long at 
her. Malali hung her head and drooped her arms before 
him. 'Why did you go with Montelo,' he asked at last, 
' when Langalula would have taken you ? ' 

The girl trembled with fear. 'Twas no fault of hers. 
How could she help it? A woman, there, is no free 
agent. ' My father sold me,' she answered, whimpering ; 

155 



LANGALULA 

' Montelo paid him a great many oxen. I had no choice 
but to go. O King, O mighty lion, I did not know you 
wanted me.' 

With that she flung hei-self at his feet in terror, and held 
his knees, imploring him. 

'Take her to the hut that was once Montelo' s/ said the 
great chief, smiling ; ' I will follow her there.' 

They seized her arms and dragged her to the hut, crying 
and shrieking as she went. They dragged her roughly. 
Langalula remained behind, superintending the slaughter 
of Montelo's warriors. As soon as he was tired he returned 
to the hut that had once been Montelo's ; for he wished 
to see Malali, whether she was really as beautiful as he 
believed, even though the Missionary would never marry 
him to her. 

Malali, when she saw him, outside the hut, thought all 
was well, and that Langalula loved her. So she left off 
crying, and tried every art a woman knows to please and 
charm him. But Langalula was a very great king, and his 
anger was aroused. A king's anger is terrible. He smiled 
to himself to see with what simple tricks the woman thought 
she could appease a mighty warrior. 

' Go into my hut ! ' he said. And he followed her. 

The next morning came, and the great king cried to 
himself with annoyance and vexation that Montelo and 
Khamsua — and the Missionary as well — should have done 
him, between them, out of so beautiful a woman. If the 
Missionary had been a black man, Langalula would have 
compelled him to baptize him outright, and then to marry 
him properly to Malali, with book and ring, in the Christian 
fashion. But he knew by experience it is no use threatening 
these white men with .tortures ; for, threaten how you may, 
they will not obey you ; and, besides, the Governor would 
send up troops from Cape Town ; and 'tis ill fighting with 
the men of the Governor. So he arose from his bed in the 
156 



LANGALULA 

morning in a white heat of passion. ' Malali,' he said, 
gazing at her with an ugly smile, ' I like you better than 
any woman I ever yet saw. You please me in everything. 
But you went off with Montelo, and the Missionary will not 
marry me to you now I have speared him. I have also 
speared your father, Khamsua, because he sold you for oxen 
to Montelo. I want a real queen, who shall be married to 
me white-fashion. I am becoming a Christian now, and 
can have only one wife. But it must not be you, because 
you were sold to Montelo, whom I have slain in the battle, 
and they will not marry us. So I will keep my own first 
wife, the earliest married, though she is old and lean, and 
discard the other ones. Come out of the hut, Malali, and 
stand in front of my warriors.' 

Malali was afraid at that, and would have skulked in 
the corner if she dared; but she dared not, because she 
was frightened of Langalula. So out she came as he bid 
her, trembling in all her limbs, and crouching with 
terror ; her knees hardly bore her. Langalula turned to 
his men ; he looked at her with regret. She was sleek and 
beautiful. 

' Pin her through the body to the ground with an assegai,' 
he said, pointing at her. 

And they pinned her through with an assegai. 

' Pin her arms and her legs,' said the great chief. 

And his followers pinned them. The woman fainted. 

' Now leave her to die in the sun,' said Langalula. 

So they left her to die there. 

After that, Langalula marched back grimly with his men 
to his own country. As soon as he reached his kraal he went 
to see the Missionary. He was very submissive. 

' I repent of all my sins,' he said. ' I have come to be 
baptized. Teacher, I will put away all my wives save 
one ; and even for that one I will retain the earliest.' 

And that is how Langalula became a Christian. 

157 



VII 
THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

Walter Dene, deacon, in his faultless Oxford clerical coat 
and broad felt hat, strolled along slowly, sunning himself 
as he went, after his wont, down the pretty central lane 
of West Churnside. It was just the idyllic village best 
suited to the taste of such an idyllic young curate as Walter 
Dene. There were cottages with low-thatched roofs, 
thickly overgrown with yellow stonecrop and pink house- 
leek ; there were trellis-work porches up which the scented 
dog-rose and the fainter honeysuckle clambered together 
in sisterly rivalry ; there were pargeted gable-ends of 
Elizabethan farmhouses, quaintly varied with black oak 
joists and moulded plaster panels. At the end of all, 
between an avenue of ancient elm-trees, the heavy square 
tower of the old church closed in the little vista — a church 
with a round Norman doorway and dog-tooth arches, 
melting into Early English lancets in the aisle, and finishing 
up with a great decorated east window by the broken cross 
and yew-tree. Not a trace of Perpendicularity about it 
anywhere, thank goodness : ' for if it were Perpendicular,' 
said Walter Dene to himself often, ' I really think, in 
spite of my uncle, I should have to look out for another 
curacy.' 

Yes, it was a charming village, and a charming country ; 
but, above all, it was rendered habitable and pleasurable 
for a man of taste by the informing presence of Christina 
Eliot. ' I don't think I shall propose to Christina this week 
after all,' thought Walter Dene as he strolled along lazily. 
L 161 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

' The most delightful part of love-making is certainly its 
first beginning. The little tremor of hope and expectation ; 
the half-needless doubt you feel as to whether she really 
loves you; the pains you take to piei-ce the thin veil of 
maidenly reserve ; the triumph of detecting her at a blush 
or a flutter when she sees you coming — all these are 
delicate little morsels to be rolled daintily on the critical 
palate, and not to be swallowed down coarsely at one vulgar 
gulp. Poor child, she is on tenter-hooks of hesitation and 
expectancy all the time, I know ; for I 'm sure she loves me 
now, I 'm sure she loves me ; but I must wait a week yet : 
she will be grateful to me for it hereafter. We mustn't 
kill the goose that lays the golden eggs ; we mustn't eat up 
all our capital at one extravagant feast, and then lament 
the want of our interest ever afterward. Let us live another 
week in our first fool's paradise before we enter on the safer 
but less tremulous pleasures of sure possession. We can 
enjoy first love but once in a lifetime ; let us enjoy it now 
while we can, and not fling away the chance prematurely 
by mere childish haste and girlish precipitancy.' Thinking 
which thing, Walter Dene halted a moment by the church- 
yard wall, picked a long spray of scented wild thyme from 
a mossy cranny, and gazed into the blue sky above at the 
graceful swifts who nested in the old tower, as they curved 
and circled through the yielding air on their evenly poised 
and powerful pinions. 

Just at that moment old Mary Long came out of her 
cottage to speak with the young parson. ' If ye plaze, 
Maister Dene,' she said in her native west-country dialect, 
' our Nully would like to zee 'ee. She's main ill to-day, zur, 
and she be like to die a'most, I 'm thinking.' 

'Poor child, poor child,' said Walter Dene tenderly. 
' She 's a dear little thing, Mrs. Long, is your Nellie, and I 
hope she may yet be spared to you. I '11 come and see her 
at once, and try if I can do anything to ease her.' 
162 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

He crossed the road compassionately with the tottering 
old grandmother^ giving her his helping hand over the 
kerbstone, and following her with bated breath into the 
close little sickroom. Then he flung open the tiny case- 
ment with its diamond-leaded panes, so as to let in the fresh 
summer air, and picked a few sprigs of sweetbriar from the 
porch, which he joined with the geranium from his own 
button-hole to make a tiny nosegay for the bare bedside. 
After that, he sat and talked awhile gently in an undertone 
to pale, pretty little Nellie herself, and went away at last 
promising to send her some jelly and some soup immediately 
from the vicarage kitchen. 

'She's a sweet little child,' he said to himself musingly, 
'though I'm afraid she's not long for this world now; and 
the poor like these small attentions dearly. They get them 
seldom, and value them for the sake of the thoughtful- 
ness they imply, rather than for the sake of the mere things 
themselves. I can order a bottle of calf's-foot at the 
grocer's, and Carter can set it in a mould without any 
trouble ; while as for the soup, some tinned mock turtle and 
a little fresh stock makes a really capital mixture for this 
sort of thing. It costs so little to give these poor souls 
pleasure, and it is a great luxury to oneself undeniably. 
But, after all, what a funny trade it is to set an educated 
man to do ! They send us up to Oxford or Cambridge, give 
us a distinct taste for ^schylus and Catullus, Dante and 
Milton, Mendelssohn and Chopin, good clai-et and olives farcies , 
and then bring us down to a country village, to look after 
the bodily and spiritual ailments of rheumatic old washer- 
women ! If it were not for poetry, flowers, and Christina, 
I really think I should succumb entirely under the infliction.' 

' He s a dear, good man, that he is, is young passon,' 
murmured old Mary Long as Walter disappeared between 
the elm-trees ; ' and he do love the poor and the zick, 
the same as if he was their own brother. God bless his 

163 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

zoul, the dear, good vulla, vor all his kindness to our 
Nully.' 

Halfway down the main lane Walter came across Christina 
Eliot. As she saw him she smiled and coloured a little, and 
held out her small gloved hand prettily. Walter took it 
with a certain courtly and graceful chivalry. ' An exquisite 
day. Miss Eliot/ he said ; ' such a depth of sapphire in the 
sky, such a faint undertone of green on the clouds by the 
horizon, such a lovely humming of bees over the flickering hot 
meadows ! On days like this, one feels that Schopenhauer is 
wrong after all, and that life is sometimes really worth living.' 

' It seems to me often worth living,' Christina answered ; 
' if not for oneself, at least for others. But you pretend to 
be more of a pessimist than you really are, I fancy, Mr. Dene. 
Any one who finds so much beauty in the world as you do 
can hardly think life poor or meagre. You seem to catch 
the loveliest points in everything you look at, and to throw 
a little literary or artistic reflection over them which makes 
them even lovelier than they are in themselves.' 

' Well, no doubt one can increase one's possibilities of 
enjoyment by carefully cultivating one's own faculties of 
admiration and appreciation,' said the curate thoughtfully ; 
' but, after all, life has only a few chapters that are thoroughly 
interesting and enthralling in all its history. We oughtn't 
to hurry over them too lightly. Miss Eliot ; we ought to 
linger on them lovingly, and make the most of their poten- 
tialities ; we ought to dwell upon them like " linked sweet- 
ness long drawn out." It is the mistake of the world at 
large to hurry too rapidly over the pleasantest episodes, just 
as children pick all the plums at once out of the pudding. 
I often think that, from the purely selfish and temporal 
point of view, the real value of a life to its subject may be 
measured by the space of time over which he has managed 
to spread the enjoyment of its greatest pleasures. Look, for 
example, at poetry, now.' 
164 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

A faint shade of disappointment passed across Christina's 
face as he turned from what seemed another groove into that 
indifferent subject ; but she answered at once, ' Yes, of course 
one feels that with the higher pleasures at least ; but there 
are others in which the interest of plot is greater, and then 
one looks naturally rather to the end. When you begin a 
good novel, you can't help hurrying through it in order to 
find out what becomes of everybody at last.' 

' Ah, but the highest artistic interest goes beyond mere 
plot interest. I like rather to read for the pleasure of read- 
ing, and to loiter over the passages that please me, quite 
irrespective of what goes before or what comes after ; just as 
you, for your part, like to sketch a beautiful scene for its 
own worth to you, irrespective of what may happen to the 
leaves in autumn, or to the cottage roof in twenty years from 
this. By the way, have you finished that little water-colour 
of the mill yet .'' It 's the prettiest thing of yours I 've ever 
seen, and I want to look how you 've managed the light on 
your foreground.' 

' Come in and see it,' said Christina. ' It 's finished now, and, 
to tell you the truth, I 'm very well pleased with it myself.' 

' Then I know it must be good,' the curate answered ; ' for 
you are always your own harshest critic' And he turned in 
at the little gate with her, and entered the village doctor's 
tiny drawing-room. 

Christina placed the sketch on an easel near the window 
— a low window opening to the ground, with long lithe 
festoons of faint-scented jasmine encroaching on it from 
outside — and let the light fall on it aslant in the right 
direction. It was a pretty and a clever sketch certainly, 
with more than a mere amateur's sense of form and colour ; 
and Walter Dene, who had a true eye for pictures, could 
conscientiously praise it for its artistic depth and fulness. 
Indeed, on that head at least, Walter Dene's veracity was 
unimpeachable, however lax in other matters ; nothing on 

165 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

earth would have induced him to praise as good a picture or 
a sculpture in which he saw no real merit. He sat a little 
Avhile criticising and discussing it, suggesting an improve- 
ment here or an alteration there, and then he rose hurriedly, 
remembering all at once his forgotten promise to little 
Nellie. 'Dear me,' he said, 'your daughter's picture has 
almost made me overlook my proper duties, Mrs. Eliot. I 
promised to send some jelly and things at once to poor little 
Nellie Long at her grandmother's. How very wrong of me 
to let my natural inclinations keep me loitering here, when 
I ought to have been thinking of the poor of my parish ! ' 
And he went out with just a gentle pressure on Christina's 
hand, and a look from his eyes that her heart knew how to 
I'ead aright at the first glance of it. 

' Do you know, Christie,' said her father, ' I sometimes 
fancy when I hear that new parson fellow talk about his 
artistic feelings, and so on, that he s just a trifle selfish, or 
at least self-centred. He always dwells so much on his own 
enjoyment of things, you know.' 

' Oh no, papa,' cried Christina warmly, ' He 's anything 
but selfish, I 'm sure. Look how kind he is to all the poor 
in the village, and how much he thinks about their comfort 
and welfare. And whenever he's talking with one, he 
seems so anxious to make you feel happy and contented with 
yourself He has a sort of little subtle flattery of manner 
about him that 's all pure kindliness ; and he 's always 
thinking what he can say or do to please you, and to help 
you onward. What you say about his dwelling on enjoy- 
ment so much is really only his artistic sensibility. He 
feels things so keenly, and enjoys beauty so deeply, that he 
can't help talking enthusiastically about it even a little out 
of season. He has more feelings to display than most men, 
and I'm sure that's the reason why he displays them so 
much. A ploughboy could only talk enthusiastically about 
roast beef and dumplings ; Mr. Dene can talk about every- 
166 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

thin^ that 's beautiful and sublime on earth or in 
heaven.' 

Meanwhile, Walter Dene was walking quickly with his 
measured tread — the even, regular tread of a cultivated 
gentleman — down the lane toward the village grocer's, 
saying to himself as he went, ' There was never such a girl 
in all the world as my Christina. She may be only a country 
surgeon's daughter — a rosebud on a hedgerow bush — but she 
has the soul and the eye of a queen among women for all 
that. Every lover has deceived himself with the same sweet 
dream, to be sure — how over-analytic we have become now- 
adays, when I must needs half argue myself out of the sweets 
of first love ! — but then they hadn't so much to go upon as I 
have. She has a wonderful touch in music, she has an 
exquisite eye in painting, she has an Italian charm in manner 
and conversation. I 'm something of a connoisseur, after all, 
and no more likely to be deceived in a woman than I am in 
a wine or a picture. And next week I shall really propose 
formally to Christina, though I know by this time it will be 
nothing more than the merest formality. Her eyes are too 
eloquent not to have told me that long ago. It will be a 
delightful pleasure to live for her, and in order to make her 
happy. I frankly recognise that I am naturally a little 
selfish — not coarsely and vulgarly selfish ; from that disgusting 
and piggish vice I may conscientiously congratulate myself 
that I 'm fairly free ; but still selfish in a refined and culti- 
vated manner. Now, living with Christina and for Christina 
will correct this defect in my nature, will tend to bring me 
nearer to a true standard of perfection. When I am by her 
side, and then only, I feel that I am thinking entirely of 
her, and not at all of myself. To her I show my best side ; 
with her, that best side would be always uppermost. The 
companionship of such a woman makes life something purer, 
and higher, and better worth having. The one thing that 
stands in our way is this horrid practical question of what 

167 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

to live upon. I don't suppose Uncle Arthur will be inclined 
to allow me anything, and I can't marry on my own paltry 
income and my curacy only. Yet I can't bear to keep 
Christina waiting indefinitely till some thick-headed squire 
or other chooses to take it into his opaque brain to give me 
a decent living.' 

From the grocer's the curate walked on, carrying the two 
tins in his hand, as far as the vicarage. He went into the 
library, sat down by his own desk, and rang the bell. ' Will 
you be kind enough to give those things to Carter, John .'' ' 
he said in his bland voice ; ' and tell her to put the jelly in a 
mould, and let it set. The soup must be warmed with a 
little fresh stock, and seasoned. Then take them both, with 
my compliments, to old Mary Long the washerwoman, for 
her grandchild. Is my uncle in .'' ' 

' No, Master Walter,' answered the man — he was always 
Master Walter ' to the old servants at his uncle's — ' the 
vicar have gone over by train to Churminster. He told me 
to tell you he wouldn't be back till evening, after dinner.' 

' Did you see him off, John .'' ' 

' Yes, Master Walter. I took his portmantew to the 
station.' 

' This will be a good chance, then,' thought Walter Dene 
to himself. ' Very well, John,' he went on aloud : ' I shall 
write my sermon now. Don't let anybody come to disturb 
me.' 

John nodded and withdrew. Walter Dene locked the 
door after him carefully, as he often did when writing ser- 
mons, and then lit a cigar, which was also a not infrequent 
concomitant of his exegetical labours. After that he walked 
once or twice up and down the room, paused a moment to 
look at his parchment-covered Rabelais and Villon on the 
bookshelf, peered out of the dulled glass windows with the 
crest in their centre, and finally drew a cui-ious bent iron 
instrument out of his waistcoat pocket. With it in his hands, 
168 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

he went up quietly to his uncle's desk, and began fumbling 
at the lock in an experienced manner. As a matter of fact, 
it was not his first trial of skill in lockpicking ; for Walter 
Dene was a painstaking and methodical man, and having 
made up his mind that he would get at and read his uncle's 
will, he took good care to begin by fastening all the drawers 
in his own bedroom, and trying his prentice hand at 
unfastening them again in the solitude of his chamber. 

After half a minute's twisting and turning, the wards gave 
way gently to his dexterous pressure, and the lid of the desk 
lay open before him. Walter Dene took out the different 
papers one by one — there was no need for hurry, and he was 
not a nervous person — till he came to a roll of parchment, 
which he recognised at once as the expected will. He 
unrolled it carefully and quietly, without any womanish 
trembling or excitement — ' Thank Heaven,' he said to himself, 
* I 'm above such nonsense as that ' — and sat down leisurely 
to read it in the big, low, velvet-covered study chair. As he 
did so, he did not forget to lay a notched foot-rest for his 
feet, and to put the little Japanese dish on the tiny table by 
his side to hold his cigar ash. ' And now,' he said, 'for the 
important question whether Uncle Arthur has left his money 
to me, or to Arthur, or to both of us equally. He ought, of 
course, to leave at least half to me, seeing I have become 
a curate on purpose to please him, instead of following my 
natural vocation to the Bar ; but I shouldn't be a bit sur- 
prised if he had left it all to Arthur. He 's a pig-headed 
and illogical old man, the vicar ; and he can never forgive 
me, I believe, because, being the eldest son, I wasn't called 
after him by my father and mother. As if that was my 
fault ! Some people's ideas of personal responsibility are so 
ridiculously muddled.' 

He composed himself quietly in the armchair, and glanced 
rapidly at the will through the meaningless preliminaries till 
he came to the significant clauses. These he read more 

169 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

carefully. ' All my estate in the county of Dorset, and the 
messuage or tenement known as Redlands, in the parish of 
Lode, in the county of Devon, to my dear nephew, Arthur 
Dene,' he said to himself slowly : ' Oh, this will never do.' 
' And I give and bequeath to my said nephew, Arthur Dene, 
the sum of ten thousand pounds, three per cent, consolidated 
annuities, now standing in my name' — ' Oh, this is atrocious, 
quite atrocious ! What 's this ? ' ' And I give and bequeath 
to my dear nephew, Walter Dene, the residue of my 
personal estate' — 'and so forth. Oh no. That's quite 
sufficient. This must be rectified. The residuary legatee 
would only come in for a few hundreds or so. It's quite 
preposterous. The vicar was always an ill-tempered, 
cantankerous, unaccountable person, but I wonder he has 
the face to sit opposite me at dinner after that.' 

He hummed an air from Schubert, and sat a moment 
looking thoughtfully at the will. Then he said to himself 
quietly, ' The simplest thing to do would be merely to scrape 
out or take out with chemicals the name Arthur, substituting 
the name Walter, and vice versa. That 's a very small matter ; 
a man who draws as well as I do ought to be able easily to 
imitate a copying clerk's engrossing hand. But it would be 
madness to attempt it now and here ; I want a little practice 
first. At the same time, I mustn't keep the will out a 
moment longer than is necessary ; my uncle may return by 
some accident before I expect him ; and the true philosophy 
of life consists in invariably minimising the adverse chances. 
This will was evidently drawn up by Watson and Blenkiron, 
of Chancery Lane. I '11 write to-morrow and get them to 
draw up a will for me, leaving all I possess to Arthur. The 
same clerk is pretty sure to engross it, and that '11 give me a 
model for the two names on which I can do a little prelim- 
inary practice. Besides, I can try the stuff Wharton told me 
about, for making ink fade, on the same parchment. That 
will be killing two birds with one stone, certainly. And 
170 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

now if I don't make haste I shan't have time to write my 
sermon.' 

He replaced the will calmly in the desk, fastened the lock 
again with a delicate twirl of the pick, and sat down in his 
armchair to compose his discourse for to-morrow's evensong. 
' It 's not a bad bit of rhetoric/ he said to himself as he read 
it over for correction, 'but I'm not sure that I haven't 
plagiarised a little too freely from Montaigne and dear old 
Burton. What a pity it must be thrown away upon a Churn- 
side congregation ! Not a soul in the whole place will 
appreciate a word of it, except Christina. Well, well, that 
alone is enough reward for any man.' And he knocked off 
his ash pensively into the Japanese ashpan. 

During the course of the next week Walter practised 
diligently the art of imitating handwriting. He got his will 
drawn up and engrossed at Watson and Blenkiron's (without 
signing it, hien entendu) ; and he spent many solitary hours 
in writing the two names 'Walter' and 'Arthur' on the 
spare end of parchment, after the manner of the engrossing 
clerk. He also tested the stuff for making the ink fade to 
his own perfect satisfaction. And on the next occasion 
when his uncle was safely off the premises for three hours, 
he took the will once more deliberately from the desk, 
removed the obnoxious letters with scrupulous care, and wrote 
in his own name in place of Arthur's, so that even the en- 
grossing clerk himself would hardly have known the differ- 
ence. ' There,' he said to himself approvingly, as he took 
down quiet old George Herbert from the shelf and sat down 
to enjoy an hour's smoke after the business was over, 'that's 
one good deed well done, anyhow. I have the calm satis- 
faction of a clear conscience. The vicar's proposed arrange- 
ment was really most unfair ; I have substituted for it what 
Aristotle would rightly have 'called true distributive justice. 
For though I 've left all the property to myself, by the un- 
fortunate necessity of the case, of course I won't take it all. 

171 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

I'll be juster than the vicar. Arthur shall have his fair 
share, which is more, I believe, than he 'd have done for me ; 
but I hate squalid money-grubbing. If brothers can't be 
generous and brotherly to one another, what a wretched, 
sordid little life this of ours would really be ! ' 

Next Sunday morning the vicar preached, and Walter 
sat looking up at him reflectively from his place in the 
chance). A beautiful clear-cut face, the curate's, and seen 
to great advantage from the doctor's i^ew, set off by the 
white surplice, and upturned in quiet meditation towards 
the elder priest in the pulpit. Walter was revolving many 
things in his mind, and most of all one adverse chance 
which he could not just then see his way to minimise. Any 
day his uncle might take it into his head to read over the 
will and discover the — ah, well, the rectification. W^alter was 
a man of too much delicacy of feeling even to think of it to 
himself as a fraud or a forgery. Then, again, the vicar was 
not a very old man after all ; he might live for an indefinite 
period, and Christina and himself might lose all the best 
years of their life waiting for a useless person's natural 
removal. What a pity that threescore was not the utmost 
limit of human life ! For his own part, like the Psalmist, 
Walter had no desire to outlive his own highest tastes and 
powers of enjoyment. Ah, well, well, man's prerogative is 
to better and improve upon nature. If people do not die 
when they ought, then it becomes clearly necessary for 
philosophically-minded juniors to help them on their way 
artificially. 

It was an ugly necessity, certainly ; Walter frankly recog- 
nised that fact from the very beginning, and he shrank 
even from contemplating it ; but there was no other way 
out of the difficulty. The old man had always been a 
selfish bachelor, with no love for anybody or anything on 
earth except his books, his coins, his garden, and his dinner ; 
he was growing tired of all except the last; would it not be 
172 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

better for the world at large^ on strict utilitarian principles, 
that he should go at once ? True, such steps are usually 
to be deprecated ; but the wise man is a law unto himself, 
and instead of laying down the wooden, hard-and-fast lines 
that make conventional morality so much a rule of thumb, 
he judges every individual case on its own particular merits. 
Here was Christina's happiness and his own on the one 
hand, with many collateral advantages to other people, set 
in the scale against the feeble remnant of a selfish old man's 
days on the other. Walter Dean had a constitutional horror 
of taking life in any form, and especially of shedding blood ; 
but he flattered himself that if anything of the sort became 
clearly necessary, he was not the man to shrink from taking 
the needful measures to ensure it, at any sacrifice of personal 
comfort. 

All through the next week Walter turned over the subject 
in his own mind ; and the more he thought about it, the 
more the plan gained in definiteness and consistency as 
detail after detail suggested itself to him. First he thought 
of poison. That was the cleanest and neatest way of 
managing the thing, he considered; and it involved the 
least unpleasant consequences. To stick a knife or shoot a 
bullet into any sentient creature was a horrid and revolting 
act ; to put a little tasteless powder into a cup of coffee and 
let a man sleep off his life quietly was really nothing more 
than helping him involuntarily to a delightful euthanasia. 
' I wish any one would do as much for me at his age, 
without telling me about it,' Walter said to himself seriously. 
But then the chances of detection would be much increased 
by using poison, and Walter felt it an imperative duty to 
do nothing which would expose Christina to the shock of 
a discovery. She would not see the matter in the same 
practical light as he did ; women never do ; their morality 
is purely conventional, and a wise man will do nothing on 
earth to shake it. You cannot buy poison without the risk 

173 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

of exciting question. There remained, then, only shooting 
or stabbing. But shooting makes an awkward noise, and 
attracts attention at the moment ; so the one thing possible 
was a knife, unpleasant as that conclusion seemed to all his 
more delicate feelings. 

Having thus decided, Walter Dene proceeded to lay his 
plans with deliberate caution. He had no intention what- 
soever of being detected, though his method of action was 
simplicity itself. It was only bunglers and clumsy fools 
who got caught ; he knew that a man of his intelligence 
and ability would not make such an idiot of himself as — 
well, as common ruffians always do. He took his old 
American bowie-knife, bought years ago as a curiosity, out 
of the drawer where it had lain so long. It was very rusty, 
but it would be safer to sharpen it privately on his own 
hone and strop than to go asking for a new knife at a shop 
for the express purpose of enabling the shopman afterwards 
to identify him. He sharpened it for safety's sake during 
sermon-hour in the library, with the door locked as usual. 
It took a long time to get off all the rust, and his arm got 
quickly tired. One morning as he was polishing away at it, 
he was stopped for a moment by a butterfly which flapped 
and fluttered against the dulled window-panes. 'Poor 
thing!' he said to himself, '^it will beat its feathery wings 
to pieces in its struggles ' ; and he put a vase of Venetian 
glass on top of it, lifted the sash carefully, and let the 
creature fly away outside in the broad sunshine. At the 
same moment the vicar, who was strolling with his King 
Charlie on the lawn, came up and looked in at the window. 
He could not have seen in before, because of the dulled and 
painted diamonds. 

' That 's a murderous-looking weapon, VVally,' he said, with 
a smile, as his glance fell upon the bowie and hone. ' What 
do you use it for ? ' 

' Oh, it 's an American bowie,' Walter answered carelessly. 
174 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

' I bought it long ago for a curiosity, and now I 'm sharpen- 
ing it up to help me in carving that block of walnut wood.' 
And he ran his finger lightly along the edge of the blade 
to test its keenness. What alucky thing that it was the vicar 
himself, and not the gardener ! If he had been caught by 
anybody else the fact would have been fatal evidence after 
all was over. ' Mefiez-vous des papillons/ he hummed to 
himself, after Beranger, as he shut down the window. 
' One more butterfly, and I must give up the game as 
useless.' 

Meanwhile, as Walter meant to make a clean job of it — 
hacking and hewing clumsily was repulsive to all his finer 
feelings — he began also to study carefully the anatomy 
of the human back. He took down all the books on the 
subject in the library, and by their aid discovered exactly 
under which ribs the heart lay. A little observation of 
the vicar, compai-ed with the plates in Quain's Aimtomy, 
showed him precisely at what point in his clerical coat the 
most vulnerable interstice was situated. ' It 's a horrid 
thing to have to do,' he thought over and over again as 
he planned it, ' but it 's the only way to secure Christina's 
happiness.' And so, by a certain bright Friday evening 
in August, Walter Dene had fully completed all his pre- 
parations. 

That afternoon, as on all bright afternoons in summer, 
the vicar went for a walk in the grounds, attended only by 
little King Charlie. He was squire and parson at once in 
Churnside, and he loved to make the round of his own 
estate. At a certain gate by Selbury Copse the vicar 
always halted to rest awhile, leaning on the bar and looking 
at the view across the valley. It was a safe and lonely spot. 
Walter remained at home (he was to take the regular 
Friday evensong) and went into the study by himself. 
After a while he took his hat, not without trembling, 
strolled across the garden, and then made the short cut 

175 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

through the copse, so as to meet the vicar by the gate. On 
his way he heard the noise of the Dennings in the farm 
opposite, out rabbit-shooting with their guns and ferrets 
in the warren. His very soul shrank within him at the 
sound of that brutal sport. ' Great heavens ! ' he said to 
himself, with a shudder ; ' to think how I loathe and shrink 
from the necessity of almost painlessly killing this one 
selfish old man for an obviously good reason, and those 
creatures there will go out massacring innocent animals 
with the aid of a hideous beast of prey, not only without 
remorse, but actually by way of amusement ! I thank 
Heaven I am not even as they are.' Near the gate he 
came upon his uncle quietly and naturally, though it 
would be absurd to deny that at that supreme moment 
even Walter Dene's equable heart throbbed hard, and his 
breath went and came tremulously. 'Alone,' he thought 
to himself, 'and nobody near ; this is quite providential,' 
using even then, in thought, the familiar phraseology of his 
profession. 

' A lovely afternoon. Uncle Arthur,' he said as composedly 
as he could, accurately measuring the spot on the vicar's 
coat with his eye meanwhile. ' The valley looks beautiful 
in this light.' 

' Yes, a lovely afternoon, Wally, my boy, and an exquisite 
glimpse down yonder into the churchyard.' 

As he spoke, Walter half leaned upon the gate beside 
him, and adjusted the knife behind the vicar's back scienti- 
fically. Then, without a word more, in spite of a natural 
shrinking, he drove it home up to the haft, with a terrible 
effort of will, at the exact spot on the back that the books 
had pointed out to him. It was a painful thing to do, but 
he did it carefully and well. The effect of Walter Dene's 
scientific provision was even more instantaneous than he 
had anticipated. Without a single cry, without a sob or a 
contortion, the vicar's lifeless body fell over heavily by the 
176 



y 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

side of the gate. It rolled down like a log into the dry 
ditch beneath. Walter knelt trembling on the ground 
close by, felt the pulse for a moment to assure himself that 
his uncle was really dead, and having fully satisfied himself 
on this all-important point, proceeded to draw the knife 
neatly out of the wound. He had let it fall in the body, 
in order to extricate it more easily afterward, and not risk 
pulling it out carelessly so as to get himself covered need- 
lessly by tell-tale drops of blood, like ordinary clumsy 
assassins. But he had forgotten to reckon with little King 
Charlie. The dog jumped piteously upon the body of his 
master, licked the wound with his tongue, and refused to 
allow Walter to withdraw the knife. It would be unsafe to 
leave it there, for it might be recognised. ' Minimise the 
adverse chances,' he muttered still ; but there was no 
inducing King Charlie to move. A struggle might result 
in getting drops of blood upon his coat, and then, great 
heavens, what a terrible awakening for Christina ! ' Oh, 
Christina, Christina, Christina,' he said to himself piteously, 
' it is for you only that I could ever have ventured to do this 
hideous thing.' The blood was still oozing out of the 
narrow slit, and saturating the black coat, and Walter 
Dene with his delicate nerves could hardly bear to look 
upon it. 

At last he summoned up resolution to draw out the knife 
from the ugly wound, in spite of King Charlie ; and as he 
did so, oh, horror ! the little dog jumped at it, and cut his 
left fore-leg against the sharp edge deep to the bone. 
Here was a pretty accident indeed ! If Walter Dene had 
been a common heartless murderer he would have snatched 
up the knife immediately, left the poor lame dog to watch 
and bleed beside his dead master, and skulked off hurriedly 
from the mute witness to his accomplished crime. But 
Walter was made of very different mould from that; 
he could not find it in his heart to leave a poor dumb animal 
M 177 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

wounded and bleeding for hours together, alone and un- 
tended. Just at first, indeed, he tried sophistically to 
persuade himself his duty to Christina demanded that he 
should go away at once, and never mind the sufferings of a 
mere spaniel ; but his better nature told him the next 
moment that such sophisms were indefensible, and his 
humane instincts overcame even the profound instinct of 
self-preservation. He sat down quietly beside the warm 
corpse. ' Thank goodness,' he said, with a slight shiver of 
disgust, ' I 'm not one of those weak-minded people who are 
troubled by remorse. They would be so overcome by terror 
at what they had done that they would want to run away 
from the body immediately, at any price. But I don't think 
I could feel remorse. It is an incident of lower natures — 
natures that are capable of doing actions under one set of 
impulses, which they regret when another set comes upper- 
most in turn. That implies a want of balance, an imperfect 
co-oi-dination of parts and passions. The perfect character 
is consistent with itself; shame and repentance are con- 
fessions of weakness. For my part, I never do anything 
without having first deliberately decided that it is the best 
or the only thing to do ; and having so done it, I do not 
draw back like a girl from the necessary consequences of my 
own act. No fluttering or running away for me. Still, I 
must admit that all that blood does look very ghastly. 
Poor old gentleman ! I believe he really died almost with- 
out knowing it, and that is certainly a great comfort to one 
under the circumstances.' 

He took King Charlie tenderly in his hands, without 
touching the wounded leg, and drew his pocket hand- 
kerchief softly from his pocket. ' Poor beastie,' he said 
aloud, holding out the cut limb before him, 'you are badly 
hurt, I 'm afraid ; but it wasn't my fault. We must see 
what we can do for you.' Then he wrapped the hand- 
kerchief deftly around it, without letting any blood show 
178 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

through, pressed the dog close against his breast, and picked 
up the knife gingerly by the reeking handle. ' A fool of a 
fellow would throw it into the river,' he thought, with a curl 
of his graceful lip. ' They always dredge the river after 
these incidents. I shall just stick it down a hole in the 
hedge a hundred yards off. The police have no invention, 
dull donkeys ; they never dredge the hedges.' And he thrust 
it well down a disused rabbit burrow, filling in the top neatly 
with loose mould. 

Walter Dene meant to have gone home quietly and said 
evensong, leaving the discovery of the body to be made at 
haphazard by others, but this unfortunate accident to King 
Charlie compelled him against his will to give the first 
alarm. It was absolutely necessary to take the dog to the 
veterinary at once, or the poor little fellow might bleed to 
death incontinently. ' One's best efforts,' he thought, ' are 
always liable to these unfortunate contretemps. I meant 
merely to remove a superfluous person from an uncongenial 
environment ; yet I can't manage it without at the same 
time seriously injuring a harmless little creature that 1 
really love.' And with one last glance at the lifeless 
thing behind him, he took his way regretfully along the 
ordinary path back towards the peaceful village of Churn- 
side. 

Halfway down the lane, at the entrance to the village, 
he met one of his parishioners. ' Tom,' he said boldly, 
' have you seen anything of the vicar .'' I 'm afraid he 's got 
hurt somehow. Here 's poor little King Charlie come limping 
back with his leg cut.' 

' He went down the road, zur, 'arf an hour zince, and I 
arn't zeen him afterwards.' 

'^Tell the servants at the vicarage to look around the 
grounds, then ; I 'm afraid he has fallen and hurt himself. 
I must take the dog at once to Perkins's, or else I shall be 
late for evensong.' 

179 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

The man went off straight towards the vicarage, and 
Walter Dene turned immediately with the dog in his arms 
into the village veterinary's. 



II 

The servants from the vicarage were not the first persons 
to hit upon the dead body of the vicar. Joe Harley, the 
poacher, was out reconnoitring that afternoon in the vicar's 
preserves ; and five minutes after Walter Dene had passed 
down the far side of the hedge, Joe Harley skulked noise- 
lessly from the orchard up to the gate of the covert by 
Selbury Copse. He crept through the open end by the post 
(for it was against Joe's principles under any circumstances 
to climb over an obstacle of any sort, and so needlessly 
expose himself), and he was just going to slink off along 
the other hedge, having wires and traps in his pocket, 
when his boot struck violently against a soft object in the 
ditch underfoot. It struck so violently that it crushed in 
the object with the force of the impact; and when Joe came 
to look at what the object might be, he found to his horror 
that it was the bruised and livid face of the old parson. 
Joe had had a brush with keepers more than once, and had 
spent several months of seclusion in Dorchester Gaol ; but, 
in spite of his familiarity with minor forms of lawlessness, 
he was moved enough in all conscience by this awful and 
unexpected discovery. He turned the body over clumsily 
with his hands, and saw that it had been stabbed in the 
back once only. In doing so he trod in a little blood, and 
got a drop or two on his sleeve and trousers ; for the pool 
was bigger now, and Joe was not so handy or dainty with 
his fingers as the idyllic curate. 

It was an awful dilemma, indeed, for a confirmed and 
convicted poacher. Should he give the alarm then and 
180 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

there, boldly, trusting to his innocence for vindication, and 
helping the police to discover the murderer? Why, that 
would be sheer suicide, no doubt ; ' for who but would 
believe,' he thought, ''twas me as done it?' Or should he 
slink away quietly and say nothing, leaving others to find 
the body as best they might ? That was dangerous enough 
in its way if anybody saw him, but not so dangerous as the 
other course. In an evil hour for his own chances Joe 
Harley chose that worse counsel, and slank off in his 
familiar crouching fashion towards the opposite corner of 
the copse. 

On the way he heard John's voice holloaing for his master, 
and kept close to the hedge till he had quite turned the 
corner. But John had caught a glimpse of him too, and 
John did not forget it when, a few minutes later, he came 
upon the horrid sight beside the gate of Selbury Copse. 

Meanwhile Walter had taken King Charlie to the 
veterinary 's, and had his leg bound and bandaged securely. 
He had also gone down to the church, got out his surplice, 
and begun to put it on in the vestry for evensong, when 
a messenger came at hot haste from the vicarage, with news 
that Master Walter must come up at once, for the vicar was 
murdered. 

' Murdered ! ' Walter Dene said to himself slowly half 
aloud ; ' nmrdered ! how horrible ! Murdered ! ' It was an 
ugly word, and he turned it over with a genuine thrill of 
horror. That was what they would say of him if ever 
the thing came to be discovered ! What an inappropriate 
classification ! 

He threw aside the surplice, and rushed up hurriedly to 
the vicarage. Already the servants had brought in the 
body, and laid it out in the clothes it wore, on the vicar's 
own bed. Walter Dene went in, shuddering, to look at it. 
To his utter amazement, the face was battered in horribly 
and almost unrecognisably by a blow or kick ! What could 

181 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

that hideous mutilation mean ? He could not imagine. It 
was an awful mystery. Great heavens ! just fancy if any one 
were to take it into his head that he, Walter Dene, had done 
that — had kicked a defenceless old gentleman brutally about 
the face like a common London ruffian ! The idea was 
too horrible to be borne for a moment. It unmanned him 
utterly, and he hid his face between his two hands and 
sobbed aloud like one broken-hearted. 'This day's work 
has been too much for my nerves,' he thought to himself 
between the sobs ; ' but perhaps it is just as well I should 
give way now completely.' 

That night was mainly taken up with the formalities of 
all such cases ; and when at last Walter Dene went off, 
tired and nerve-worn, to bed, about midnight, he could not 
sleep much for thinking of the mystery. The murder 
itself didn't trouble him greatly ; that was over and past 
now, and he felt sure his precautions had been amply 
sufficient to protect him even from the barest suspicion ; 
but he couldn't fathom the mystery of that battered and 
mutilated face ! Somebody must have seen the corpse 
between the time of the murder and the discovery ! Who 
could that somebody have been ? and what possible motive 
could he have had for such a horrible piece of purposeless 
brutality ? 

As for the servants, in solemn conclave in the hall, they 
had unanimously but one theory to account for all the facts : 
some poacher or other, for choice Joe Harley, had come 
across the vicar in the copse, with gun and traps in hand. 
The wretch had seen he was discovered, had felled the 
poor old vicar by a blow in the face with the butt-end of 
his rifle, and after he fell, fainting, had stabbed him for 
greater security in the back. That was such an obvious 
solution of the difficulty, that nobody in the servants' hall 
had a moment's hesitation in accepting it.' 

When Walter heard next morning early that Joe Harley 
182 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

had been arrested overnight, on John's information, his 
horror and surprise at the news were wholly unaffected. 
Here was another new difficulty, indeed. ' When I did the 
thing,' he said to himself, ' I never thought of that possi- 
bility. I took it for granted it would be a mystery, a 
problem for the local police (who, of course, could no more 
solve it than they could solve the po7is asinorum), but it 
never struck me they would arrest an innocent person on 
the charge instead of me. This is horrible. It's so easy to 
make out a case against a poacher, and hang him for it, 
on suspicion. One's whole sense of justice revolts against 
the thing. After all, there 's a great deal to be said in 
favour of the ordinary commonplace morality : it prevents 
complications. A man of delicate sensibilities oughtn't to 
kill anybody ; he lets himself in for all kinds of unexpected 
contingencies, without knowing it.' 

At the coroner's inquest things looked veiy black indeed 
for Joe Harley. Walter gave his evidence first, showing 
how he had found King Charlie wounded in the lane ; and 
then the others gave theirs, as to the search for and finding 
of the body. John in particular swore to having seen a 
man's back and head slinking away by the hedge while they 
were looking for the vicar ; and that back and head he felt 
sure were Joe Harley's. To Walter's infinite horror and 
disgust, the coroner's jury I'eturned a verdict of wilful 
murder against the poor poacher. What other verdict 
could they possibly have given in accordance with such 
evidence .'' 

The trial of Joe Harley for the wilful murder of the 
Reverend Arthur Dene was fixed for the next Dorchester 
Assizes. In the interval, Walter Dene, for the first time in 
his placid life, knew what it was to undergo a mental 
struggle. Whatever happened, he could not let Joe Harley 
be hanged for this murder. His whole soul rose up within 
him in loathing for such an act of hideous injustice. For 

183 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

though Walter Dene's code of morality was certainly not 
the conventional one, as he so often boasted to himself, he 
was not by any means without a code of morals of any 
sort. He could commit a murder where he thought it 
necessary, but he could not let an innocent man suffer in 
his stead. His ethical judgment on that point was just as 
clear and categorical as the judgment which told him he 
was in duty bound to murder his uncle. For Walter did not 
argue with himself on moral questions : he perceived the 
right and necessary thing intuitively ; he was a law to him- 
self, and he obeyed his own law implicitly, for good or for 
evil. Such men are capable of horrible and diabolically 
deliberate crimes ; but they are capable of great and genuine 
self-sacrifices also. 

Walter made no secret in the village of his disinclination 
to believe in Joe Harley's guilt. Joe was a rough fellow, 
he said, certainly, and he had no objection to taking a 
pheasant or two, and even to having a free fight with the 
keepers ; but, after all, our game-laws were an outrageous 
piece of class legislation, and he could easily understand how 
the poor, whose sense of justice they outraged, should be so 
set against them. He could not think Joe Harley was cap- 
able of a detestable crime. Besides, he had seen him himself 
within a few minutes before and after the murder. Every- 
body thought it such a proof of the young parson's generous 
and kindly disposition ; he had certainly the charity which 
thinketh no evil. Even though his own uncle had been 
brutally murdered on his own estate, he checked his natural 
feelings of resentment, and refused to believe that one of his 
own parishioners could have been guilty of the crime. Nay, 
more, so anxious was he that substantial justice should be 
done the accused, and so confident was he of his innocence, 
that he promised to provide counsel for him at his own 
expense ; and he provided two of the ablest barristers on 
the Western circuit. 
184 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

Before the trial, Walter Dene had come, after a terrible 
internal struggle, to an awful resolution. He would do 
everything he could for Joe Harley ; but if the verdict went 
against him, he was resolved, then and there, in open court, 
to confess, before judge and jury, the whole truth. It would 
be a horrible thing for Christina ; he knew that : but he 
could not love Christina so much, ' loved he not honour 
more ' ; and honour, after his own fashion, he certainly loved 
dearly. Though he might be false to all that all the world 
thought right, it was ingrained in the very fibre of his soul 
to be true to his own inner nature at least. Night after 
night he lay awake, tossing on his bed, and picturing to his 
mind's-eye every detail of that terrible disclosure. The jury 
would bring in a verdict of guilty : then, before the judge 
put on his black cap, he, Walter, would stand up, and tell 
them that he could not let another man hang for his crime ; 
he would have the whole truth out before them ; and then 
he would die, for he would have taken a little bottle of 
poison at the first sound of the verdict. As for Christina — 
oh, Christina ! — Walter Dene could not dare to let himself 
think upon that. It was horrible ; it was unendui'able ; it 
was torture a thousand times worse than dying : but still, 
he must and would face it. For in certain phases, Walter 
Dene, forger and murderer as he was, could be positively 
heroic. 

The day of the trial came, and Walter Dene, pale and 
haggard with much vigil, walked in a dream and faintly 
from his hotel to the court-house. Everybody pi-esent 
noticed what a deep effect the shock of his uncle's death had 
had upon him. He was thinner and more bloodless than 
usual, and his dulled eyes looked black and sunken in their 
sockets. Indeed, he seemed to have suffered far more in- 
tensely than the prisoner himself, who walked in firmer and 
more erect, and took his seat doggedly in the familiar dock. 
He had been there more than once before, to say the truth, 

185 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

though never before on such an errand. Yet mere habit, 
when he got there^ made him at once assume the hang-dog 
look of the consciously guilty. 

Walter sat and watched and listened, still in a dream, but 
without once betraying in his face the real depth of his 
innermost feelings. In the body of the court he saw Joe's 
wife, weeping profusely and ostentatiously, after the fashion 
considered to be con-ect by her class ; and though he pitied 
her from the bottom of his heart, he could only think by 
contrast of Christina. What were that good woman's fears 
and sorrows by the side of the grief and shame and unspeak- 
able horror he might have to bring upon his Christina .'' Pray 
Heaven the shock, if it came, might kill her outright ; that 
would at least be better than that she should live long years 
to remember. More than judge, or jury, or prisoner, Walter 
Dene saw everywhere, behind the visible shadows that 
thronged the court, that one persistent prospective picture 
of heart-broken Christina. 

The evidence for the prosecution told with damning force 
against the prisoner. He was a notorious poacher ; the vicar 
was a game-preserver. He had poached more than once on 
the ground of the vicarage. He was shown by numerous 
witnesses to have had an animus against the vicar. He had 
been seen, not in the face, to be sure, but still seen and re- 
cognised, slinking away, immediately after the fact, from the 
scene of the murder. And the prosecution had found stains 
of blood, believed by scientific experts to be human, on the 
clothing he had worn when he was arrested. Walter Dene 
listened now with terrible, unabated earnestness, for he 
knew that in reality it was he himself who was upon his trial. 
He himself, and Christina's happiness ; for if the poacher 
were found guilty, he was firmly resolved, beyond hope of 
respite, to tell all, and face the unspeakable. 

The defence seemed indeed a weak and feeble theory. 
Somebody unknown had committed the murder, and this 
186 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

somebody, seen from behind, had been mistaken by John for 
Joe Harley. The blood-stains need not be human, as the 
cross-examination went to show, but were only known by 
counter-experts to be mammalian — perhaps a rabbit's. 
Every poacher — and it was admited that Joe was a poacher 
— was liable to get his clothes blood-stained. Grant they 
were human, Joe, it appeared, had himself once shot off his 
little finger. All these points came out from the examina- 
tion of the earlier witnesses. At last, counsel put the curate 
himself into the box, and proceeded to examine him briefly 
as a witness for the defence. 

Walter Dene stepped, pale and haggard still, into the 
witness-box. He had made up his mind to make one final 
effort 'for Christina's happiness.' He fumbled nervously all 
the time at a small glass phial in his pocket, but he an- 
swered all questions without a moment's hesitation, and he 
kept down his emotions with a wonderful composure which 
excited the admii-ation of everybody present. There was a 
general hush to hear him. Did he see the prisoner, Joseph 
Harley, on the day of the murder ? Yes, three times. 
When was the first occasion ? From the library window, 
just before the vicar left the house. What was Joseph Harley 
then doing .'' Walking in the opposite direction from the 
copse. Did Joseph Harley recognise him .'' Yes, he touched 
his hat to him. When was the second occasion ? About 
ten minutes later, when he, Walter, was leaving the vicarage 
for a stroll. Did Joseph Harley then recognise him ? Yes, 
he touched his hat again, and the curate said, ' Good 
morning, Joe ; a fine day for walking.' When was the third 
time ? Ten minutes later again, when he was returning 
from the lane, carrying wounded little King Charlie. Would 
it have been physically possible for the prisoner to go from 
the vicarage to the spot where the murder was committed, 
and back again, in the interval between the first two occa- 
sions .'' It would not. Would it have been physically 

187 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

possible for the prisoner to do so in the interval between the 
second and third occasions ? It would not. 

' Then in your opinion, Mr. Dene, it is physically im- 
possible that Joseph Harley can have committed this 
murder ? ' 

' In my opinion, it is physically impossible.' 

While Walter Dene solemnly swore amid dead silence to 
this treble lie, he did not dare to look Joe Harley once in 
the face ; and while Joe Harley listened in amazement to 
this unexpected assistance to his case — for counsel, sus- 
pecting a mistaken identity, had not questioned him too 
closely on the subject — he had presence of mind enough 
not to let his astonishment show upon his stolid features. 
But when Walter had finished his evidence in chief, he stole 
a glance at Joe ; and for a moment their eyes met. Then 
Walter's fell in utter self-humiliation ; and he said to him- 
self fiercely, ' I would not so have debased and degraded 
myself before any man to save my own life — what is my 
life worth to me, after all ? — but to save Christina, to save 
Christina, to save Christina ! I have brought all this upon 
myself for Christina's sake.' 

Meanwhile, Joe Harley was asking himself curiously what 
could be the meaning of this new move on parson's part. 
It was delibei'ate perjury, Joe felt sure, for parson could not 
have mistaken another person for him three times over ; 
but what good end for himself could parson hope to gain by 
it .'' If it was he who had murdered the vicar (as Joe strongly 
suspected), why did he not try to press the charge home 
against the first person who happened to be accused, instead 
of committing a distinct perjury on purpose to compass his 
acquittal .'' Joe Harley, with his simple everyday criminal 
mind, could not be expected to unravel the intricacies of so 
complex a personality as Walter Dene's. But even there, 
on trial for his life, he could not help wondering what 
on earth young parson could be driving at in this business. 
188 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

The judge summed up with the usual luminously obvious 
alternate platitudes. If the jury thought that John had 
really seen Joe Harley, and that the curate was mistaken in 
the person whom he thrice saw, or was mistaken once only 
out of the thrice, or had miscalculated the time between 
each occurrence, or the time necessary to cover the ground 
to the gate, then they would find the prisoner guilty of 
wilful murder. If, on the other hand, they believed John 
had judged hastily, and that the curate had really seen the 
prisoner three separate times, and that he had rightly 
calculated all the intervals, then they would find the 
prisoner not guilty. The prisoner's case rested entirely 
upon the alibi. Supposing they thought there was a doubt 
in the matter, they should give the prisoner the benefit of 
the doubt. Walter noticed that the judge said in every 
other case, ' If you believe the witness So-and-so,' but that 
in his case he made no such discourteous reservation. As a 
matter of fact, the one person whose conduct nobody for 
a moment dreamt of calling in question was the real 
murderer. 

The jury retired for more than an hour. During all that 
time two men stood there in mortal suspense, intent and 
haggard, both upon their trial, but not both equally. The 
prisoner in the dock fixed his arms in a dogged and sullen 
attitude, the colour half gone from his brown cheek, and his 
eyes straining with excitement, but showing no outward 
sign of any emotion except the craven fear of death. 
Walter Dene stood almost fainting in the body of the court, 
his bloodless fingers still fumbling nei-vously at the little 
phial, and his face deadly pale with the awful pallor of a 
devouring horror. His heart scarcely beat at all, but at 
each long slow pulsation he could feel it throb distinctly 
within his bosom. He saw or heard nothing before him, 
but kept his aching eyes fixed steadily on the door by which 
the jury were to enter. Junior counsel nudged one another 

189 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

to notice his agitation, and whispered that that poor young 
curate had evidently never seen a man tried for his Hfe before. 

At last the jury entei*ed. Joe and Walter waited, each in 
his own manner, breathless for the verdict. ' Do you find 
the prisoner at the bar guilty or not guilty of wilful murder .'' ' 
Walter took the little phial from his pocket, and held 
it carefully between his finger and thumb. The awful 
moment had come ; the next word would decide the fate of 
himself and Christina. The foreman of the jury looked up 
solemnly, and answered with slow distinctness, ' Not guilty.' 
The prisoner leaned back vacantly, and wiped his forehead ; 
but there was an awful cry of relief from one mouth in the 
body of the court, and Walter Dene sank back into the arms 
of the bystanders, exhausted with suspense and overcome 
by the reaction. The crowd remarked among themselves 
that young Parson Dene was too tender-hearted a man to 
come into court at a criminal trial. He would break his 
heart to see even a dog hanged, let alone his fellow-Christians. 
As for Joe Harley, it was universally admitted that he had 
had a narrow squeak of it, and that he had got off better 
than he deserved. The jury gave him the benefit of the 
doubt. 

As soon as all the persons concerned had returned to 
Churnside, Walter sent at once for Joe Harley. The 
poacher came to see him in the vicarage library. He was 
elated and coarsely exultant with his victoiy, as a relief 
from the strain he had suifered, after the manner of all 
vulgar natures. 

'Joe,' said the clergyman slowly, motioning him into a 
chair at the other side of the desk, ' I know that after this 
trial Churnside will not be a pleasant place to hold you. 
All your neighbours believe, in spite of the verdict, that you 
killed the vicar. I feel sure, however, that you did not 
commit this murder. Therefore, as some compensation for 
the suffering of mind to which you have been put, I think 
190 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

it well to send you and your wife and family to Australia or 
Canada, whichever you like best. I propose also to make 
you a present of a hundred pounds, to set you up in your 
new home.' 

' Make it five hundi-ed, passon,' Joe said, looking at him 
significantly. 

Walter smiled quietly, and did not flinch in any way. ' I 
said a hundred/ he continued calmly, ' and I will make it 
only a hundred. I should have had no objection to making 
it five, except for the manner in which you ask it. But you 
evidently mistake the motive of my gift. I give it out of 
pure compassion for you, and not out of any other feeling 
whatsoever.' 

' Very well, passon,' said Joe sullenly, ' I accept it.' 

' You mistake again,' Walter went on blandly, for he was 
himself again now. ' You are not to accept it as terms ; 
you are to thank me for it as a pure present. I see we two 
partially understand each other; but it is important you 
should understand me exactly as I mean it. Joe Harley, 
listen to me seriously. I have saved your life. If I had 
been a man of a coarse and vulgar nature, if I had been like 
you in a similar predicament, I would have pressed the case 
against you for obvious personal reasons, and you would have 
been hanged for it. But I did not press it, because I felt 
convinced of your innocence, and my sense of justice rose 
irresistibly against it. I did the best I could to save you ; 
I risked my own reputation to save you ; and I have no 
hesitation now in telling you that to the best of my belief, 
if the verdict had gone against you, the person who really 
killed the vicar, accidentally or intentionally, meant to have 
given himself up to the police, rather than let an innocent 
man suffer.' 

' Passon,' said Joe Harley, looking at him intently, ' I 
believe as you 're tellin' me the truth. I zeen as much in 
that person's face afore the verdict.' 

191 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

There was a solemn pause for a moment ; and then 
Walter Dene said slowly, ' Now that you have withdrawn 
your claim as a claim, I will stretch a point and make it 
five hundred. It is little enough for what you have 
suffered. But I, too, have suffered terribly, terribly.' 

' Thank you, passon,' Joe answered. ' I zeen as you were 
turble anxious.' 

There was again a moment's pause. Then Walter Dene 
asked quietly, ' How did the vicar's face come to be so 
bruised and battered } ' 

' I stumbled up agin 'im accidental like, and didn't know 
I 'd kicked 'un till I 'd done it. Must 'a been just a few 
minutes after you 'd 'a left 'un.' 

' Joe,' said the curate in his calmest tone, ' you had better 
go ; the money will be sent to you shortly. But if you ever 
see my face again, or speak or write a word of this to me, 
you shall not have a penny of it, but shall be prosecuted for 
intimidation. A hundred before you leave, four hundred in 
Australia. Now go.' 

' Very well, passon,' Joe answered ; and he went. 

' Pah ! ' said the curate with a face of disgust, shutting 
the door after him, and lighting a perfumed pastille in his 
little Chinese porcelain incense-burner, as if to fumigate 
the room from the poacher's offensive presence. ' Pah ! 
to think that these affairs should compel one to humiliate 
and abase oneself before a vulgar clod like that ! To 
think that all his life long that fellow will virtually know 
— and misinterpret — my secret. He is incapable of under- 
standing that I did it as a duty to Christina. Well, he 
will never dare to tell it, that 's certain, for nobody would 
believe him if he did ; and he may congratulate himself 
heartily that he's got well out of this difficulty. It will 
be the luckiest thing in the end that ever happened to 
him. And now I hope this little episode is finally over.' 

When the Churnside public learned that Walter Dene 
192 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

meant to carry his belief in Joe Harley's innocence so far 
as to send him and his family at his own expense out to 
Australia, they held that the young parson's charity and 
guilelessness was really, as the doctor said, almost Quixotic. 
And when, in his anxiety to detect and punish the real 
murderer, he offered a reward of five hundred pounds from 
his own pocket for any information leading to the arrest and 
conviction of the criminal, the Churnside people laughed 
quietly at his extraordinaiy childlike simplicity of heart. 
The real murderer had been caught and tried at Dorchester 
Assizes, they said, and had only got off by the skin of his 
teeth because Walter himself had come forward and sworn 
to a quite improbable and inconclusive alibi. There was 
plenty of time for Joe to have got to the gate by the 
short cut, and that he did so everybody at Churnside felt 
morally certain. Indeed, a few years later a blood-stained 
bowie-knife was found in the hedge not far from the 
scene of the murder, and the gamekeeper ' could almost 'a 
took his Bible oath he 'd zeen just such a knife along o' 
Joe Harley.' 

That was not the end of Walter Dene's Quixotisms, 
however. When the will was read, it turned out that 
almost eveiything was left to the young parson ; and who 
could deserve it better, or spend it more charitably .'' But 
Walter, though he would not for the world seem to cast 
any slight or disrespect upon his dear uncle's memory, did 
not approve of customs of primogeniture, and felt bound to 
share the estate equally with his brother Arthur. ' Strange,' 
said the head of the firm of Watson and Blenkiron to him- 
self, when he read the little paragraph about this generous 
conduct in the paper ; ' I thought the instructions were to 
leave it to his nephew Arthur, not to his nephew Walter ; 
but there, one forgets and confuses names of people that 
one does not know so easily.' ' Gracious goodness ! ' thought 
the engrossing clerk ; ' surely it was the other way on. I 
N 193 



THE CURATE OF CHURNSIDE 

wonder if I can have gone and copied the wrong names in 
the wrong places ? ' But in a big London business, nobody 
notes these things as they would have been noted in 
Churnside ; the vicar was always a changeable, pernickety, 
huffy old fellow, and very likely he had had a reverse will 
drawn up afterwards by his country lawyer. All the world 
only thought that Walter Dene's generosity was really 
almost ridiculous, even in a parson. When he was married 
to Christina, six months afterwards, everybody said so 
charming a girl was well mated with so excellent and admir- 
able a husband. 

And he really did make a very tender and loving husband 
and father. Christina believed in him always, for he did 
his best to foster and keep alive her faith. He would have 
given up active clerical duty if he could, never having liked 
it (for he was above hypocrisy), but Christina was against 
the project, and his bishop would not hear of it. The 
Church could ill afford to lose such a man as Mr. Dene, the 
bishop said, in these troubled times ; and he begged him 
as a personal favour to accept the living of Churnside, which 
was in his gift. But Walter did not like the place, and 
asked for another living instead, which, being of less value 
— ' so like Mr. Dene to think nothing of the temporalities,' 
— the bishop even more graciously granted. He has since 
published a small volume of dainty little poems on uncut 
paper, considered by some critics as rather pagan in tone 
for a clergyman, but universally allowed to be extremely 
graceful, the perfection of poetical form with much deli- 
cate mastery of poetical matter. And everybody knows 
that the author is almost certain to be offered the first 
vacant canonry in his own cathedral. As for the little 
episode, he himself has almost forgotten all about it; for 
those who think a murderer must feel remorse his whole 
life long, are trying to read their own emotional nature into 
the wholly dispassionate character of Walter Dene. 
194. 



VIII 
CECCA'S LOVER 



CECCA^S LOVER 

They're a queer lot^ these Italians. After twenty years 
spent among them I don't yet understand them. Italy 
itself I love — every artist must. I love the very dirt. I 
love the squalid towns. I love the crumbling walls ; I love 
every stone of them. When I came to the country first, I 
dropped into it like one to the manner born. I said on the 
mere threshold, by the slope of the Alps, stretching out my 
hands to the soil of Italy, ' Ecco la mia patria ! ' But the 
Italians! — ah, there! — that's quite another question. I 
like them, understand well ; I don't say a word against 
them ; but comprehend them .'' — no, no ; they 're at once 
too simple and too complex, by far, for our Northern 
intelligence. 

There was Cecca's case, for example ; what a very queer 
history ! You must have noticed Cecca — that black-haired, 
flashing-eyed Neapolitan maid of ours, who goes out with my 
little ones. Have I never told you the story about Cecca's 
strange courtship .'' Well, well ; sit down here under the 
shade of the stone-pine, and light your cigarette while I tell 
you all about it. Be careful of your match, though ; don't 
throw it away lighted in the midst of the rosemary bushes ; 
the myrtles and lentisks on these dry hillsides flare up like 
tinder ; the white heath crackles and fizzes in a second ; 
before you know where you are, the flame runs up the 
junipers and pine-trees, corkscrew-wise; and hi, presto! in 
rather less time than it takes to say so, the forest 's ablaze 
from Santa Croce to the Roya. 

197 



CECCA'S LOVER 

It was before we settled down here at Bordighera that 
the thing began ; indeed^ it was Cecca, indirectly speaking, 
that brought us to the coast here. We were living at 
Naples then, or, rather, near Castellamare. Cecca was our 
housemaid. Her full name 's Francesca. She 's handsome 
still, but she was beautiful then ; the prettiest fisher-girl 
from Sorrento to Pozzuoli. Fanny took her from her 
parents when she was twelve years old, and trained her 
up in the house like an English servant. But the hot Nea- 
politan nature burnt strong in her, all the same ; nobody 
could ever tame Cecca. 

Well, she had a lover, of course ; every girl has a lover — 
especially in Italy. He was a fisherman, like her own 
people ; for the fishermen are a caste, and no well-bred 
fisher-girl ever dreams of marrying any man outside it. 
The fellow's name was Giuseppe. Our children loved him. 
He used to bring them dried sea-horses with long curled 
tails, and queer shells with wings to them, and creepy great 
octopuses with staring goggle eyes, that they loved to see 
and yet shrank from in terror. He was a mighty hunter 
of sea-eggs and cuttle-fish. Cecca pretended not to care 
for him, Neapolitan fashion — for they are a crooked folk ; but 
we could see very well she was madly in love with him for 
all that. If we sent her on the hills to take the children 
for a walk, we always found, in the end, she 'd gone on the 
beach instead, if Giuseppe was hauling the seine, or mend- 
ing his nets, or tarring and towing the gaping chinks in the 
hull of the Sant' Elmo. 

One morning I was sitting under the shadow of a boat, 
on the shingle by the sea, doing a little water-colour ; the 
children were close by, playing with stranded jelly-fish ; 
and Cecca was there to look after them, basking in the sun 
like a lizard. Presently, on the shore, Giuseppe's boat 
drove in, and he hauled her up close by, with the aid of 
his brown-legged mates, never noticing us so near him. 
198 



CECCA'S LOVER 

Cecca noted him stealthily, glancing askance at me to keep 
silence. The young man began sorting his fish — you know 
the kind of thing — strange frutti di mare that they make 
frittura of. All's fish that comes to their net — mussels, 
squids, or sea-spiders. As he was doing it, another pretty 
fisher-girl strolled up that way, brown-skinned like himself, 
and with a bright red handkerchief twisted carelessly round 
that glossy black head of hers. Cecca crept closer, under 
shelter of the boat, her eyes like coals of fire, and listened 
to the talk of them. I heard it all, too ; frank fisher-folk 
chaff, with frank fisher-folk words, in the frank fisher- folk 
dialect. A good part of it, don't you see, would be totally 
unfit for publication in English. 

' Hey, my Lady, what a catch ! ' says the girl, holding her 
head on one side, and looking down at the boat-load. 
'Crabs, sardines, and sea-wolf! You've fifty lire's worth 
there if you've got ten soldi. You'll be making your 
fortune soon, Giuseppe ! ' 

Giuseppe glanced up at her as she stood there so saucy, 
with one hand on her hip, and one, coquettish, by the corner 
of her rich red mouth, and he shrugged his shoulders. 

' Pretty well,' he says, opening his hands, just so, in 
front of him — you know their way. ' A fair catch for the 
season ! ' 

The girl sidled nearer. Her name was Bianca (though 
she was brown as a berry), and I knew her well by sight. 

' You '11 be marrying Cecca before long,' she said. ' You '11 
need it all — then ! She 'II want red shoes and silk stockings, 
your Cecca will.' 

' Who said I was going to marry Cecca .'' ' Giuseppe 
answers, quite short, out of pure contrariety. That 's the 
Neapolitan way. Talking to one pretty girl, in the heat of 
the moment, he couldn't bear she should think he cared for 
another one. Your Neapolitan would like to make love to 
them all at once, or rather each in turn, and pretend to 

199 



CECCA'S LOVER 

every one of them he didn't care a pin for any of the 
others. 

Wellj there they fell straight into an Italian chaffing- 
mateh, half fun, half earnest ; Bianca pretending Giuseppe 
was head over ears in love with Cecca, to her certain know- 
ledge ; while Giuseppe pretended he never cared for the 
mincing thing at all, and was immensely devoted to no one 
but Bianca. It was pure Neapolitan devilry on his part, of 
course ; he couldn't help saying sweet things to whatever 
pretty girl with a pair of black eyes was nearest him at the 
moment, and depreciating by comparison every other she 
spoke of. 

But Cecca sat hard by, her hand curved round her ear, 
shell-wise, so, to listen, and her brow like thunder. I dared 
not say a word lest she should rise and rush at him. 

'And you've chosen so well, too!' says Bianca, half 
satirically, don't you see .'' ' She 's so sweet ! so pretty ! 
Such lips for a kiss ! Such fine eyes to flirt with ! Not a 
girl on the beach with eyes like Cecca's ! ' 

' Eyes ! ' Giuseppe answers, coming closer and ogling her. 
' You call her eyes fine } Why, / say she squints with 
them.' 

' Not squints,' says Bianca condescendingly. ' Just a very 
slight cast.' 

And indeed, as you may have noticed, though Cecca's so 
handsome, they 're not quite straight in her head, when you 
come to look hard at them. 

' Yoti may call it a cast,' Giuseppe continues, counting 
over his dories ; ' but / call it squinting. Whereas your 
eyes, Bianca ' 

Bianca pouted her lips at him. 

'That's the way of you men,' she says, mighty pleased all 
the same. ' Always flattering us to our faces ; while behind 
our backs ' 

' And then, her temper ! ' says Giuseppe. 
200 



CECCA'S LOVER 

' Well, she has a temper, I admit,' Bianca goes on with 
angelic candour. And so for twenty minutes such a game 
between them, pulling poor Cecca to pieces, turn about, till, 
morally and physically, she hadn't the ghost of a leg left to 
stand upon. 

But Cecca ! you should have seen her meanwhile. There 
she sat, under the boat, drinking in every word, herself 
unseen, with the eye and the face of a tigress just ready to 
spring, straining forward to listen. It was awful to look at 
her ; she seemed one whirlwind of suppressed passion. 
Little fists clenched hard, neck stretched out to the utmost, 
frowning brow, puckered eyes, nostrils wide and quivering. 
I 'd have given anything to paint her as she sat there that 
minute. I tried it from memory afterwards — you remember 
the piece, my 'Italian Idyll,' in the '84 Academy. 

By and by she rose and faced them. Then came the tug 
of war. If it was tragedy to see Cecca with her heart on 
fire, like the pinewoods in summer, it was comedy to see 
those two disappear into their shoes when Cecca fronted 
them. The Three Furies wei'e nothing to it. Bianca 
dodged and vanished. Giuseppe stood sheepish, jaw 
dropped and eye staring, anxious at first to find out 
whether she'd heard them or not; then pretending he'd 
known all the time she was there, and just did it to tease 
her ; lastly, throwing himself on her mercy, and setting it 
all down, as was really the case, to the time-pleasing, fickle 
Neapolitan temperament that was common to both of them. 
'You'd have done it yourself, Cecca,' he said, 'with any 
other man, you know, if he 'd begun to chaif you about 
your fellow, Giuseppe.' 

Cecca knew she would in her heart, I dare say, but she 
wouldn't acknowledge it ; having heard it all, you see, made 
all the difference. It 's the way of men, Giuseppe told her, 
craning eagerly forward, to disparage even the girl they love 
best, when they want to make themselves momentarily 

201 



CECCA^S LOVER 

agreeable to another one. It's the way of men, all the 
world over, I 'm afraid ; but, as far as I 've observed, the 
woman they love never lets them off one penny the easier 
on account of its universality. 

Well, they parted bad friends ; Giuseppe went off in a 
huff, and Cecca, proud and cold, with the mien of a duchess, 
stalked home by the children's side in silence. For a day 
or two we heard nothing more at all about the matter. 
Giuseppe didn't come round in the evenings, as usual, to 
the villa gate ; and Cecca's eyes in the morning were red 
with crying. Not that she minded a bit, she told Fanny, 
with a toss of her pretty head ; for her own part, indeed, 
she was rather glad than otherwise it was off altogether, for 
Giuseppe, she always knew, wasn't half good enough for 
her. In a moment of weakness she had encouraged his suit 
— a mere common fisherman's, when the head waiter at the 
Victoria, that distinguished-looking gentleman in a swallow- 
tail coat and a spotless white tie, was dying of love for her. 
For Cecca had been raised one degree in the social scale by 
taking service in a foreign family, and, whenever she wanted 
to give herself airs, used to pretend that nowadays she looked 
down upon mere fishermen. 

Towards the end of the week, however, old Catarina, our 
cook, brought in evil tidings. She had no business to tell 
it, of course, but, being a Neapolitan, she told it on purpose, 
in order to stir up a little domestic tragedy between Cecca 
and her lover. Giuseppe was paying his court to Bianca ! 
They had been seen walking out in the evening together ! 
He had given her a lace scarf, and it was even said — and so 
forth, and so forth ! Well, we knew very well, Fanny and I, 
what Giuseppe was driving at. He only wanted to make 
Cecca as jealous as an owl, and so bring her back to him. 
I don't pretend to understand Italians, as I told you ; but 
this much I know, that they always go to work the crooked 
way, if they can, to attain their ends, by a sort of racial 
202 



CECCA^S LOVER 

instinct. So I wasn't astonished when Catarina told us this. 
But Cecca — she was furious. She went straight out of the 
house like a wild eat on the prowl, and crept along the shore 
in the direction of Naples. 

At ten o'clock she came back. I never saw her look so 
proud or so beautiful before. There was a disdainful smile 
upon her thin curled lips. Her eyes were terrible. She 
had a knife in her hand. ' Well, I 've done it ! ' she cried 
to Fanny, flinging the knife on the ground, so that it stuck 
by its point in the floor and quivered. ' I 've done it at 
last ! I 've finished the thing ! I 've stabbed him ! ' 

Fanny was so aghast she hardly knew what to do. ' Not 
Giuseppe ! ' she cried, all horror-struck. ' Oh, Cecca, don't 
say so.' 

' Yes, I do say so,' says Cecca, flinging herself down in a 
chair. And with that, what does she do but bury her face 
in her hands, and rock herself up and down, like a creature 
distraught, and burst into floods of tears, and moan through 
her sobs, ' Oh, I loved him so ! I loved him ! ' 

Queer sort of way of showing you love a man, to go 
sticking a knife into him ! but that 's the manner of these 
Italians. Fanny and I had got used to them, you see, so we 
didn't make much of it. Fanny tried to comfort the poor 
child, for we were really fond of her. ' Perhaps he won't 
die,' she said, bending over her; 'you mayn't have stabbed 
him badly.' 

' Oh yes, he will,' Cecca sobbed out, her eyes flashing 
fire. 'He'll die, I'm sure of it. I drove the knife home 
well, so that he shouldn't recover and let that nasty Bianca 
have him,' 

' Go out and see about it, Tom,' says my wife, turning 
round to me, quite frightened ; ' for if Giuseppe dies of it, 
then, of course, it'll be murder.' 

Well, out I went, and soon heard all the news from the 
people at the corner. Giuseppe had been found, lying 

203 



CECCA'S LOVER 

stabbed upon the road, and been carried at once to the 
civic hospital. Nobody seemed to think very much of the 
stabbing ; some woman, no doubt, or else a quarrel about 
a woman with some fisherman of his acquaintance. But 
they considered it very probable Giuseppe would die. He 
was stabbed twice badly in two dangerous places. 

There was no time to be lost. Fanny and I made up our 
minds at once. We were Italianate enough ourselves to 
think a great deal less of the crime than of poor Cecca's 
danger. You know the proverb, Inglese Ilalianalo c diavolo 
tTicarnato. I hope it's not quite true, but, at any rate, 
Fanny 's Italianate, and she was determined poor Cecca's 
head shouldn't fall off her neck if she could prevent it. 
Fanny had always a conscientious objection to the guillotine. 
So we saw at a glance Cecca must disappear — disappear 
mysteriously. Before she began to be suspected she must 
be smuggled out of the way, of course without our seeming 
to know anything about it. 

No sooner thought than done. 'Twas the moment for 
action. We called up Cecca, and held a council of war 
over her. Just at first the poor child absolutely refused to 
leave Naples on any account while Giuseppe was in such 
danger; why, he might die, she said, any moment — crying 
over him, you must know, as if it was somebody else, not 
herself, who had stabbed him. That dear man might die — 
the blessed Madonna save him !— and she not there to com- 
fort him in his last hour, or to burn a candle for the 
repose of his soul after he 'd gone to purgatory. No, not 
till Giuseppe was healed or dead : she should stop at 
Castellamare ! 

But after a time Fanny talked her over. Fanny's so 
rational. Everything would be done at the hospital for 
Giuseppe, she said ; and, supposing he died, why, we 'd 
promise to waste our substance riotously in hiring a reckless 
profusion of priests to sing masses for his soul, if only 
204 



CECCA'S LOVER 

Cecca'd take our advice and save herself. The end of it 
all was, Cecca consented at last. She even volunteered a 
suggestion on her own account. There was a Bordighera 
coasting-vessel in the port that night, she said, whose 
skipper, Paolo Bolognini, was a very good man and a friend 
of her father's. The vessel was bound out to-morrow 
morning for Bordighera direct, with a cargo of white 
Capri and country figs. If Cecca could only go on board 
to-night, disguised as a boy, she might get clear away 
beyond sea undetected. She seemed to think, poor soul, 
that if that once happened there could be no more question 
of arresting her at all ; she was too childish to be aware 
that the law of Italy runs even as far from her native 
Naples as this unknown coast here. 

Well, it's no use being seriously angry and taking the high 
moral standpoint with a naughty girl like that. You might 
as well preach the Decalogue at a three-year-old baby. So 
we cut all Cecca's hair short — she cried over its loss quite as 
bitterly at the time as she had cried over Giuseppe — and we 
dressed her up in a suit of her brother's clothes ; and a very 
pretty fisher-boy she made, after all, with a red cap on her 
head and a crimson sash round her waist for girdle. She 
laughed for three good minutes when she saw herself in the 
glass. Then we started her off, alone, for the Bordighera 
sloop, along the dim, dark shore, while Fanny and I stole 
after, at a discreet distance, to observe what happened. 

At the. very last moment, to be sure, Fanny had qualms 
of conscience about letting a pretty girl like Cecca go alone 
on board a ship among all those noisy Italian sailors. The 
British matron within her still wondered whether the girl 
ought to be allowed to go off without a chaperon. But I 
soon put a stopper on all that — revolutions and rosewater 
— you can't stick at trifles when you 're escaping from an 
impending charge of murder ; and besides, Cecca could take 
care of herself {with a knife, if necessary) among a hundred 

205 



CECCA^S LOVER 

sailors. A boatman of our acquaintance rowed her out to 
the sloop, which was anchored in the bay. She went on 
board at once, and signified to us, by a preconcerted signal 
with a light, that she was well received and would be taken 
to Bordighera. 

As soon as she was gone we expected every hour the 
police would come up and make full inquiries. If they did 
come (having lost all moral sense by this time), I was pre- 
pared to aid them in searching the house through, with the 
most innocent face, for that missing Cecca. But they never 
came at all. We learned why afterwards. Giuseppe had 
been staunch ; true as steel to the girl. In his bed at the 
hospital, half dead with the wound, he never said for a 
moment it was Cecca who had done it. That was partly his 
pride, I believe ; he didn't like to confess he 'd been stabbed 
by a woman ; and partly his desire to avenge himself 
personally. He even concocted a cock-and-bull story about 
a mysterious-looking fellow in a brigand-like cloak and a 
slouch hat who attacked him unawares on the high road, 
without the slightest provocation. The police didn't believe 
that, of course, but they never suspected Cecca. They set it 
down to a quarrel with some other man over a girl, and 
thought he refused out of motives of honour to beti*ay his 
opponent. 

For a week the poor fellow hovered between life and 
death. We waited eagerly for news of him, which old 
Catarina brought us. Of course we were afraid to inquire 
ourselves, lest suspicion should fall upon us ; but Fanny had 
promised Cecca that a letter should be awaiting her when 
she reached Bordighera with a full, true, and particular 
account of how the patient was progressing. The letter 
contained a couple of hundred francs as well ; for Fanny was 
wild about that girl, and really talked as if stabbing one's 
lover was the most natural thing in the world — an accident 
that might happen to any lady any day. That's the sort 
206 



CECCA'S LOVER 

of feeling that comes of living too long at a stretch in 
Italy. 

By and by, to everybody's immense astonishment, in spite 
of his wounds, Giuseppe began to mend. It was really 
quite a miracle. If you doubt it you can look at the ex voto 
in the chapel on the hill over yonder, where you may see 
Giuseppe with a dagger through his heart, and a very wooden 
Madonna with a simpering smile descending in a halo of 
golden light, from most material clouds, to pluck the thing 
out for him. He prayed hard that he might live — to stick a 
knife into Cecca — and our Lady heard him. At any rate, 
miracle or no miracle, the man recovered. Meanwhile, we 
had heard from Cecca of her safe arrival at Bordighera. 
But that was not all ; the girl was foolish enough to write to 
her people as well ; who confided the fact to their dearest 
friend ; who told it under the utmost pledge of secrecy to a 
dozen of her cronies ; who retailed it to the marketwomen ; 
who noised it abroad with similar precautions to all Castella- 
mare. In a week it was known to all and sundry (except 
the pohce) that Giuseppe had really been stabbed by Cecca, 
who had fled for her life to a place beyond sea called 
Bordighera. 

Presently old Catarina brought us worse news still. 
Giuseppe was up and out, breathing forth fire and slaughter 
against the girl who stabbed him. He meant to follow her 
to the world's end, he said, and return blow for blow, exact 
vengeance for vengeance. The next thing we heard was 
that he had sailed in a ship bound for Genoa direct, and we 
doubted not he knew now Cecca was at Bordighera. 

Well, nothing would satisfy poor Fanny after that but off 
we must all pack, bag and baggage, to the north, to look 
after Cecca. Not that she put it on that ground, of course ; 
British matronhood forbid ! It was getting too hot for the 
neighbourhood of Naples, she said, and time for our annual 
villeggiatura in the'mountains. We could take Bordighera on 

207 



CECCA'S LOVER 

the way to the Lakes, and carry Cecea with us to Lugano or 
Cadenabbia. For now that Giuseppe hadn't died after all, 
there was no murder in the case, and we might proceed 
more openly. 

So off we started, children, nursemaid, and all, and came 
round here by rail, post haste to Bordighera. We settled in 
for a few days at the Belvedere while we looked about us. 
Fanny hunted up Cecca at once in her lodgings in the town, 
and took her back as head nurse. ' How do you know,' I 
said, ' she won't stick a knife one day into one of the 
children ? ' But Fanny treated my remark with deserved 
contempt, and observed with asperity that we men had no 
feeling. Italianate, you see ! completely Italianate ! 

We hadn't been in Bordighera but a week and day, as the 
old song says, and I was walking along the Strada Romana 
one morning, looking out on the blue sea through the 
branches of the olives, when who should I perceive coming 
gaily towards me but my friend Giuseppe. He had a red 
sash round his waist, with a knife stuck in it ostentatiously. 
He was fingering the haft as he went. When he saw me he 
smiled and showed all his white teeth. But 'twas an ugly 
smile ; I didn't like the look of it. 

' Buon giorno, Giuseppe,' says I, trying to look uncon- 
cerned, as if I 'd expected to meet him. ' Glad to see you so 
well again.' 

' Buon giorno, signore,' he answered in his politest tone. 
Then he tapped his knife gaily : ' I 've come to look for 
Cecca ! ' 

I hurried home in hot haste, as fast as my legs would 
carry me. At the Belvedere I saw Fanny sitting out sunning 
herself near the stunted palm-tree in the front garden. 

* Fanny, Fanny,' I cried, ' where 's Cecca ? Keep her out 
of the way, for Heaven's sake ! Here 's Giuseppe at Bor- 
dighera, with a knife at his side, going about like a roaring 
lion to devour her.' 
208 



CECCA'S LOVER 

Fanny clapped her hands to her ears. 

' Oh, Tom,' she cried, 'what shall we do ? She 's down on 
the beach somewhere, playing with the children.' 

Of course this was serious. If Giuseppe came upon her 
unwarned, I didn't doubt for a moment he'd carry out in 
real earnest his threat of stabbing her. So off I sent the 
porter to find her, if possible, and set her on her guard, 
telling him to bring her home, if he could, by the back way 
over the hillside. Then Fanny and I sat out, under the 
Japanese medlar on the terrace, where we could command a 
good view of the road either way, and watch if the girl was 
coming. Meanwhile, Giuseppe kept prowling under the 
olives on the plain, and bandying chaff now and again with 
the Bordighera cabmen. 

Presently, to our horror, Cecca hove suddenly in sight, 
round the corner by the Angst, with the children beside 
her. She was carrying a great bunch of anemones and 
asphodel. Evidently the porter had failed to warn and find 
her. My heart stood still within me with suspense. I 
rushed to the edge of the terrace. But quicker than I could 
rush, Cecca had seen Giuseppe, and Giuseppe Cecca. With 
a wild cry of joy, she flung down the flowers and darted 
upon him like a maniac. She threw her arms around him in 
a transport of delight. She covered him with kisses. I 
never saw a woman give any man such a welcome. One 
would think they were lovers on the eve of marriage. And 
not three weeks before, mind you, she had tried her level 
best with a knife in his breast to murder him at Naples ! 

* Giuseppe ! ' she cried, ' Giuseppe ! Oh, carissimo ! How 
I love you ! ' 

Giuseppe shook her off and glared at her angrily. He 
drew the dagger from his belt, and held it, irresolute, in his 
hand for a moment. 

But Cecca laughed when she saw it. She laughed a 
merry laugh of amusement and astonishment. ' No, no, 
o 209 



CECCA'S LOVER 

caro mio/ she cried, seizing his arm, quite unconcerned, 
with her pretty fingers. ' Not now, when I rejoice to see 
you again, my own, are you going to stab me ! ' She 
wrenched the knife from his grasp and flung it, all glittering, 
far away among the olive groves. It gleamed in the air and 
fell. Giuseppe watched her do it, and followed its flight 
with his eyes. Then he stood there, sheepish. He didn't 
know what to do next. He just stared and looked glum, in 
spite of all her endearments. 

Cecca was more than a match for him, however. It was 
a picture to see her. She began with her blandishments, 
making such heartfelt love to him that no man in England, 
let alone in Italy, could possibly have resisted her. In just 
about two minutes by the watch he gave way. ' But 
what did you stab me for, little one } ' he asked rather 
sullenly. 

Cecca stood back a pace and looked at him in amazement. 
She surveyed him from head to foot like some strange wild 
animal. ' What did I stab you for ! ' she repeated. ' And 
he asks me that ! Oh, Giuseppe, because I loved you ! I 
loved you ! I loved you ! I loved you so much I couldn't 
bear you out of my sight. And you to go and walk with 
that Thing Bianca ! ' 

' I won't do it again,' Giuseppe answered, all penitence. 

Cecca fell upon him once more, kisses, tears, and tender- 
ness. ' Oh, Giuseppe,' she cried, ' you can't think what I 've 
suffered all these days without you ! I was longing for you 
to come. I was praying to our I.ady every hour of the 
night ; and, now you 're here, that horrid Bianca shall never 
again get hold of you.' 

We left them alone for half an hour, with half a flask of 
Chianti to compose their minds upon. At the end of that 
time Cecca came back to us smiling, and Giuseppe, looking 
more sheepish than ever, beside her. 

' Well, signora,' she said, overjoyed, ' it 's all arranged now. 
210 



CECCA^S LOVER 

As soon as we can get the announcement published, Giuseppe 
and I are going to get married.' 

That settled our fate. Willy-nilly, we were tied to 
Bordighera. Cecca declared she would never go back to 
Naples again, to let that horrid Bianca practise her wiles and 
her evil eye on Giuseppe. Fanny declared she could 
never get on without Cecca for the children. Giuseppe 
declared he would never leave us. I shrugged my shoulders. 
The upshot of it all was that we took our present villa, on 
the slope of the Cima, and Giuseppe forswore the sea, 
turned gardener on the spot, and married Cecca. Married 
her, fair and square, at church, and before the Sindaco. He 
lives in our cottage. That 's him you see down yonder 
there, uncovering the artichokes. And now I daresay you '11 
perceive what I mean when I say I never can understand 
these Italians. 

But the worst of it is, they make us in the end almost as 
bad as they are. Have another cigarette .'' And be careful 
with your match, please. 



211 



IX 
THE BACKSLIDER 



THE BACKSLIDER 

There was much stir and commotion on the night of 
Thursday, January the 14th, 1874, in the Gideonite 
Apostolic Church, number 47, Walworth Lane, Peckham, 
S.E. Anybody could see at a glance that some important 
business was mider consideration ; for the Apostle was 
there himself, in his chair of presidency, and the twelve 
Episcops were there, and the forty-eight Presbyters, and 
a large and earnest gathering of the Gideonite laity. It 
was only a small bare schoolroom, fitted with wooden 
benches, was that headquarters station of the young 
Church ; but you could not look around it once without 
seeing that its occupants were of the sort by whom great 
religious revolutions may be made or marred. For the 
Gideonites were one of those strange enthusiastic hole- 
and-corner sects that spring up naturally in the outlying 
suburbs of great thinking centres. They gather around 
the marked personality of some one ardent, vigorous, half- 
educated visionary; and they consist for the most part of 
intelligent, half-reasoning people, who are bold enough to 
cast overboard the dogmatic beliefs of their fathers, but 
not so bold as to exercise their logical faculty upon the 
fundamental basis on which the dogmas originally rested. 
The Gideonites had thus collected around the fixed centre 
of their Apostle, a retired attorney, Murgess by name, 
whose teaching commended itself to their groping reason 
as the pure outcome of faithful Biblical research ; and 

215 



THE BACKSLIDER 

they had chosen their name because, though they were 
but three hundred in number, they had full confidence 
that when the time came they would blow their trumpets, 
and all the host of Midian would be scattered before them. 
In fact, they divided the world generally into Gideonite 
and Midianite, for they knew that he that was not with 
them was against them. And no wonder, for the people 
of Peckham did not love the struggling Church. Its chief 
doctrine was one of absolute celibacy, like the Shakers of 
America ; and to this doctrine the Church had testified in 
the Old Kent Road and elsewhere after a vigorous practical 
fashion that roused the spirit of South-eastern London 
into the fiercest opposition. The young men and maidens, 
said the Apostle, must no longer marry or be given in 
marriage ; the wives and husbands must dwell asunder ; 
and the earth must be made as an image of heaven. These 
were heterodox opinions, indeed, which South-eastern 
London could only receive with a strenuous counterblast of 
orthodox brickbats and sound Anglican road metal. 

The fleece of wool was duly laid upon the floor ; the 
trumpet and the lamji were placed upon the bare wooden 
reading-desk ; and the Apostle, rising slowly from his seat, 
began to address the assembled Gideonites. 

' Friends,' he said, in a low, clear, impressive voice, with a 
musical ring tempering its slow distinctness, ' we have met 
together to-night to take counsel with one another upon a 
high matter. It is plain to all of us that the work of the 
Church in the world does not prosper as it might prosper 
were the charge of it in worthier hands. We have to 
contend against great difficulties. We are not among the 
rich or the mighty of the earth ; and the poor whom we 
have always with us do not listen to us. It is expedient, 
therefore, that we should set some one among us aside to be 
instructed thoi'oughly in those things that are most com- 
monly taught among the Midianites at Oxford or Cambridge. 
216 



THE BACKSLIDER 

To some of you it may seem, as it seemed at first to me, tliat 
such a course would involve going back upon the very 
principles of our constitution. We are not to overcome 
Midian by our own hand, nor by the strength of two and 
thirty thousand, but by the trumpet, and the pitcher, and 
the cake of barley bread. Yet, when I searched and 
inquired after this matter, it seemed to me that we might 
also err by overmuch confidence on the other side. For 
Moses, who led the people out of Egypt, was made ready 
for the task by being learned in all the learning of the 
Egyptians. Daniel, who testified in the captivity, was 
cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and 
instructed in the wisdom and tongue of the Chaldeans. 
Paul, who was the apostle of the Gentiles, had not only sat 
at the feet of Gamaliel, but was also able from their own 
poets and philosophers to confute the sophisms and subtleties 
of the Grecians themselves. These things show us that we 
should not too lightly despise even worldly learning and 
worldly science. Perhaps we have gone wrong in thinking 
too little of such dross, and being puffed up with spiritual 
pride. The world might listen to us more readily if we had 
one who could speak the word for us in the tongues under- 
standed of the world.' 

As he paused, a hum of acquiescence went round the room. 

' It has seemed to me, then,' the Apostle went on, ' that 
we ought to choose some one among our younger brethren, 
upon whose shoulders the cares and duties of the Apostolate 
might hereafter fall. We are a poor people, but by sub- 
scription among ourselves we might raise a sufficient sum to 
send the chosen person first to a good school here in London, 
and afterwards to the University of Oxford. It may seem a 
doubtful and a hazardous thing thus to stake our future upon 
any one young man ; but then we must remember that the 
choice will not be wholly or even mainly ours ; we will be 
guided and directed as we ever are in the laying on of hands. 

217 



THE BACKSLIDER 

To me, considei'ing this matter thus, it has seemed that 
there is one youth in our body who is specially pointed out 
for this work. Only one child has ever been born into the 
Church : he, as you know, is the son of brother John Owen 
and sister Margaret Owen, who were received into the fold 
just six days before his birth. Paul Owen's very name 
seems to many of us, who take nothing for chance but all 
things for divinely ordered, to mark him out at once as a 
foreordained Apostle. Is it your wish, then, Presbyter John 
Owen, to dedicate your only son to this ministry ? ' 

Presbyter John Owen i-ose from the row of seats assigned 
to the forty-eight, and moved hesitatingly towards the 
platform. He was an intelligent-looking, honest-faced, 
sunburnt working man, a mason by trade, who had come 
into the Church from the Baptist society ; and he was 
awkwardly dressed in his Sunday clothes, with the scrupulous 
clumsy neatness of a respectable artisan who expects to take 
part in an important ceremony. He spoke nervously and 
with hesitation, but with all the transparent earnestness of 
a simple, enthusiastic nature. 

' Apostle and friends,' he said, ' it ain't very easy for me 
to disentangle my feelins on this subjec' from one another. 
I hope I ain't moved by any worldly feelin', an' yet I hardly 
know how to keep such considerations out, for there 's no 
denyin' that it would be a great pleasure to me and to his 
mother to see our Paul becomin' a teacher in Israel, and 
receivin' an education such as you, Apostle, has pinted out. 
But we hope, too, we ain't insensible to the good of the 
Chui'ch and the advantage that it might derive from our 
Paul's support and preachin'. We can't help seein' om-selves 
that the lad has got abilities ; and we 've tried to train him 
up from his youth upward, like Timothy, for the furtherance 
of the right doctrine. If the Church thinks he 's fit for the 
work laid upon him, his mother and me '11 be glad to 
dedicate him to the service.' 
218 



THE BACKSLIDER 

He sat clown awkwardly, and the Church again hummed 
its approbation in a suppressed murmur. The Apostle rose 
once more, and briefly called on Paul Owen to stand forward. 

In answer to the call, a tall, handsome, earnest-eyed boy 
advanced timidly to the platform. It was no wonder that 
those enthusiastic Gideonite visionaries should have seen in 
his face the visible stamp of the Apostleship. Paul Owen 
had a rich crop of dark-brown glossy and curly hair, cut 
something after the Florentine Cinque-cento fashion — not 
because his parents wished him to look artistic, but because 
that was the way in which they had seen the hair dressed in 
all the sacred pictures that they knew ; and Margaret Owen, 
the daughter of some Wesleyan Spitalfields weaver folk, 
with the imaginative Huguenot blood still strong in her 
veins, had made up her mind ever since she became Con- 
vinced of the Truth (as their phrase ran) that her Paul was 
called from his cradle to a great work. His features were 
delicately chiselled, and showed rather natural culture, like 
his mother's, than rough honesty, like John Owen's, or 
strong individuality, like the masterful Apostle's. His eyes 
were peculiarly deep and luminous, with a far-away look 
which might have reminded an artist of the central boyish 
figure in Holman Hunt's picture of the Doctors in the 
Temple. And yet Paul Owen had a healthy colour in his 
cheek and a general sturdiness of limb and muscle which 
showed that he was none of your nervous, bloodless, sickly 
idealists, but a wholesome English peasant-boy of native 
refinement and delicate sensibilities. He moved forward 
with some natural hesitation before the eyes of so many 
people — ay, and what was more terrible, of the entire 
Church upon earth ; but he was not awkward and con- 
strained in his action like his father. One could see that he 
was sustained in the prominent part he took that morning 
by the consciousness of a duty he had to perform and a 
mission laid upon him which he must not reject. 

219 



THE BACKSLIDER 

'Are you willing, my son Paul/ asked the Apostle, 
gravely, 'to take upon yourself the task that the Church 
proposes ? ' 

' I am willing,' answered the boy in a low voice, ' grace 
preventing me.' 

'Does all the Church unanimously approve the election 
of our brother Paul to this office ? ' the Apostle asked 
formally ; for it was a rule with the Gideonites that nothing 
should be done except by the unanimous and spontaneous 
action of the whole body, acting under direct and immediate 
inspiration ; and all important matters were accordingly 
arranged beforehand by the Apostle in private interviews 
with every member of the Church individually, so that 
everything that took place in public assembly had the 
appearance of being wholly unquestioned. They took 
counsel first with one another, and consulted the Scripture 
together ; and when all private doubts were satisfied, they 
met as a Church to ratify in solemn conclave their separate 
conclusions. It was not often that the Apostle did not have 
, his own way. Not only had he the most mai-ked personality 
and the strongest will, but he alone also had Greek and 
Hebrew enough to appeal always to the original word ; and 
that mysterious amount of learning, slight as it really was, 
sufficed almost invariably to settle the scruples of his wholly 
ignorant and pliant disciples. Reverence for the literal 
Scripture in its primitive language was the corner-stone of 
the Gideonite Church ; and for all practical purposes, its one 
depositary and exponent for them was the Apostle himself. 
Even the Rev. Albert Barnes's Commentary was held to 
possess an inferior authority. 

' The Church approves,' was the unanimous answer. 

'Then, Episcops, Presbyters, and brethren,' said the 

Apostle, taking up a roll of names, ' I have to ask that you 

will each mark down on this paper opposite your own names 

how much a year you can spare of your substance for six 

220 



THE BACKSLIDER 

years to come, as a guarantee fund for this great work. You 
must remember that the ministry of this Church has cost 
you nothing ; freely I have received and freely given ; do 
you now bear your part in equipping a new aspirant for the 
succession to the Apostolate.' 

The two senior Episcops took two rolls from his hand, 
and went round the benches with a stylographic pen (so 
strangely do the ages mingle — Ajiostles and stylographs) 
silently asking each to put down his voluntary subscription. 
Meanwhile the Apostle read slowly and reverently a few 
appropriate sentences of Scripture. Some of the richer 
members — well-to-do small tradesmen of Peckham — put 
down a pound or even two pounds apiece ; the poorer 
brethren wrote themselves down for ten shillings or even 
five. In the end the guarantee list amounted to £19-^ a 
year. The Apostle reckoned it up rapidly to himself^ and 
then announced the result to the assembly, with a gentle 
smile relaxing his austere countenance. He was well 
pleased, for the sum was quite sufficient to keep Paul Owen 
two years at school in London, and then send him com- 
fortably if not splendidly to Oxford. The boy had already 
had a fair education in Latin and some Greek, at the 
Birkbeck Schools ; and with two years' further study he 
might even gain a scholarship (for he was a bright lad), 
which would materially lessen the expense to the young 
Church. Unlike many prophets and enthusiasts, the Apostle 
was a good man of business ; and he had taken pains to 
learn all about these favourable chances before embarking 
his people on so doubtful a speculation. 

The Assembly was just about to close, when one of the 
Presbyters rose unexpectedly to put a question which, 
contrary to the usual practice, had not already been sub- 
mitted for approbation to the Apostle. He was a hard- 
headed, thickset, vulgar-looking man, a greengrocer at 
Denmark Hill, and the Apostle always looked upon him as 

221 



THE BACKSLIDER 

a thorn in his side, promoted by inscrutable wisdom to the 
Pi-esbytery for the special purpose of keeping down the 
Apostle's spiritual pride. 

' One more pint. Apostle,' he said abruptly, ' afore we 
close. It seems to me that even in the Church's work we'd 
ought to be business-like. Now, it ain't business-like to let 
this young man, Brother Paul, get his eddication out of us, 
if I may so speak afore the Church, on spec. It 's all very 
well our sayin' he 's to be eddicated and take on the 
Apostleship, but how do we know but what when he 's had 
his eddication he may fall away and become a backslider, 
like Demas, and like others among ourselves that we could 
mention .'' He may go to Oxford among a lot of Midianites, 
and them of the great an' mighty of the earth too, and how 
do we know but what he may round upon the Church, and 
go back upon us after we 've paid for his eddication ? So 
what I want to ask is just this, can't we bind him down in a 
bond that if he don't take the Apostleship with the consent 
of the Church when it falls vacant, he '11 pay us back our 
money, so as we can eddicate up another as '11 be more 
worthy .'' ' 

The Apostle moved uneasily in his chair ; but before he 
could speak, Paul Owen's indignation found voice, and he 
said out his say boldly before the whole assembly, blushing 
crimson with mingled shame and excitement as he did so. 
' If Brother Grimshaw and all the brethren think so ill of 
me that they cannot trust ray honesty and honour,' he said, 
' they need not be at the pains of educating me. I will 
sign no bond and enter into no compact. But if you suppose 
that I will be a backslider, you do not know me, and I will 
confer no more with you upon the subject.' 

' My son Paul is right,' the Apostle said, flushing up in 
turn at the boy's audacity ; ' we will not make the affairs 
of the Spirit a matter for bonds and earthly arrangements. 
If the Church thinks as I do, you will all rise up.' 
222 



THE BACKSLIDER 

All rose except Presbyter Grimshaw. For a moment 
there was some hesitation, for the rule of the Church in 
favour of unanimity was absolute ; but the Apostle fixed his 
piercing eyes on Job Grimshaw^ and after a minute or so 
Job Grimshaw too rose slowly^ like one compelled by an 
unseen power, and cast in his vote grudgingly with the 
rest. There was nothing more said about signing an 
agreement. 



II 

Meenie Bolton had counted a great deal upon her visit 
to Oxford, and she found it quite as delightful as she had 
anticipated. Her brother knew such a nice set of men, 
especially Mr. Owen, of Christ Church. Meenie had never 
been so near falling in love with anybody in her life as she 
was with Paul Owen. He was so handsome and so clever, 
and then there was something so romantic about this 
strange Church they said he belonged to. Meenie's father 
was a country parson, and the way in which Paul shrank 
from talking about the Rector, as if his office were some- 
thing wicked or uncanny, piqued and amused her. There 
was a heretical tinge about him which made him doubly 
interesting to the Rector's daughter. The afternoon water 
party that eventful Thursday, down to Nuneham, she looked 
forward to with the deepest interest. For her aunt, the 
Professor's wife, who was to take charge of them, was 
certainly the most delightful and most sensible of chaperons. 

' Is it really true, Mr. Owen,' she said, as they sat to- 
gether for ten minutes alone after their picnic luncheon, 
by the side of the weir under the shadow of the Nuneham 
beeches — ' is it really true that this Church of yours doesn't 
allow people to marry ? ' 

Paul coloured up to his eyes as he answered, 'Well, Miss 

223 



THE BACKSLIDER 

Bolton, I don't know that you should identify me too 
absolutely with my Church. I was very young when they 
selected me to go to Oxford, and my opinions have 
decidedly wavered a good deal lately. But the Church 
certainly does forbid marriage. I have always been brought 
up to look upon it as sinful.' 

Meenie laughed aloud ; and Paul, to whom the question 
was no laughing matter, but a serious point of conscientious 
scruple, could hardly help laughing with her, so infectious 
was that pleasant ripple. He checked himself with an 
effort, and tried to look serious. ' Do you know,' he said, 
'when I first came to Christ Church, I doubted even 
whether I ought to make your brother's acquaintance 
because he was a clergyman's son. I was taught to describe 
clergymen always as priests of Midian.' He never talked 
about his Church to anybody at Oxford, and it was a sort 
of relief to him to speak on the subject to Meenie, in spite 
of her laughing eyes and undisguised amusement. The 
other men would have laughed at him too, but their 
laughter would have been less sympathetic. 

' And do you think them priests of Midian still ? ' asked 
Meenie. 

' Miss Bolton,' said Paul suddenly, as one who relieves his 
overburdened mind by a great effort, ' I am almost moved to 
make a confidante of you.' 

' There is nothing I love better than confidences,' Meenie 
answered; and she might truthfully have added, 'par- 
ticulai'ly from you.' 

' Well, I have been passing lately through a great many 
doubts and difficulties. I was brought up by my Church 
to become its next Apostle, and I have been educated at 
their expense both in London and here. You know,' Paul 
added with his innate love of telling out the whole truth, 
' I am not a gentleman ; I am the son of poor working 
people in London,' 
224 



THE BACKSLIDER 

' Tom told me Avho your parents were/ Meenie answered 
simply ; ' but he told me, too, you were none the less a 
true gentleman born for that ; and I see myself he told 
me right.' 

Paul flushed again — he had a most unmanly trick of 
flushing up — and bowed a little timid bow. ' Thank you/ 
he said quietly. ' Well, while I was in London I lived 
entirely among my own people, and never heard anything 
talked about except our own doctrines. I thought our 
Apostle the most learned, the wisest, and the greatest of 
men. I had not a doubt about the absolute infallibility of 
our own opinions. But ever since I came to Oxford I have 
slowly begun to hesitate and to falter. When I came up 
first, the men laughed at me a good deal in a good-humoured 
way, because I wouldn't do as they did. Then I thought 
myself persecuted for the truth's sake, and was glad. But 
the men were really very kind and forbearing to me ; they 
never argued with me or bullied me ; they respected my 
scruples, and said nothing more about it as soon as they 
found out what they really were. That was my first 
stumbling-block. If they had fought me and debated with 
me, I might have stuck to my own opinions by force of 
opposition. But they turned me in upon myself completely 
by their silence, and mastered me by their kindly foi-bear- 
ance. Point by point I began to give in, till now I hardly 
know where I am standing.' 

' You wouldn't join the cricket club at first, Tom 
says.' 

' No, I wouldn't. I thought it wrong to walk in the ways 
of Midian. But gradually I began to argue myself out of 
my scruples, and now I positively pull six in the boat, and 
wear a Christ Church ribbon on my hat. I have given up 
protesting against having my letters addressed to me as 
Esquire (though I have really no right to the title), and 
I nearly went the other day to have some cards engraved 
P 225 



THE BACKSLIDER 

with my name as " Mr. Paul Owen." I am afraid I 'm back- 
sliding terribly.' 

Meenie laughed again. ' If that is all you have to burden 
your conscience with/ she said, ' I don't think you need 
spend many sleepless nights.' 

' Quite so,' Paul answered, smiling ; ' I think so myself. 
But that is not all. I have begun to have serious doubts 
about the Apostle himself and the whole Church altogether. 
I have been three years at Oxford now ; and while I was 
reading for Mods, I don't think I was so unsettled in my 
mind. But since I have begun reading philosophy for my 
Greats, I have had to go into all sorts of deep books — Mill, 
and Spencer, and Bain, and all kinds of fellows who really 
think about things, you know, down to the very bottom — 
and an awful truth begins to dawn upon me, that our 
Apostle is after all only a very third-rate type of thinker. 
Now that, you know, is really terrible.' 

' I don't see why,' Meenie answered demurely. She was 
beginning to get genuinely interested. 

' That is because you have never had to call in question a 
cherished and almost ingrown faith. You have never 
realised any similar circumstances. Here am I, brought 
up by these good, honest, earnest people, with their own 
hard-earned money, as a pillar of their belief. I have been 
taught to look upon myself as the chosen advocate of their 
creed, and on the Apostle as an almost divinely inspired 
man. My whole life has been bound up in it ; I have 
worked and read night and day in order to pass high and 
do honour to the Church ; and now what do I begin to find 
the Church really is } A petty group of poor, devoted, 
enthusiastic, ignorant people, led blindly by a decently 
instructed but narrow-minded teacher, who has mixed up 
his own headstrong self-conceit and self-importance with 
his own peculiar ideas of abstract religion.' Paul paused, 
half surprised at himself, for, though he had doubted 
226 



THE BACKSLIDER 

before, he had never ventured till that day to formulate his 
doubts, even to himself, in such plain and straightforward 
language. 

' I see/ said Meenie gravely ; ' you have come into a 
wider world ; you have mixed with wider ideas ; and the 
wider world has converted you instead of your converting 
the world. Well, that is only natural. Others beside you 
have had to change their opinions.' 

'Yes, yes; but for me it is harder — oh! so much 
harder.' 

'^Because you have looked forward to being an Apostle .'' ' 

'Miss Bolton, you do me injustice — not in what you 
say, but in the tone you say it in. No, it is not the giving 
up of the Apostleship that troubles me, though I did 
hope that I might help in my way to make the world a new 
earth ; but it is the shock ^and downfall of their hopes to 
all those good earnest people, and especially — oh ! espe- 
cially. Miss Bolton, to my own dear father and mother.' His 
eyes filled with tears as he spoke. 

' I can understand,' said Meenie, sympathetically, her 
eyes dimming a little in response. 'They have set their 
hearts all their lives long on your accomplishing this work, 
and it will be to them the disappointment of a cherished 
romance.' 

They looked at one another a few minutes in silence. 

' How long have you begun to have your doubts ? ' Meenie 
asked after the pause. 

' A long time, but most of all since I saw you. It has 
made me — it has made me hesitate more about the fun- 
damental article of our faith. Even now, I am not sure 
whether it is not wrong of me to be talking so with you 
about such matters.' 

' I see,' said Meenie, a little more archly ; ' it comes 

perilously near ' and she broke off, for she felt she had 

gone a step too far. 

227 



THE BACKSLIDER 

' Perilously near falling in love,' Paul continued boldly, 
turning his big eyes full upon her. ' Yes, perilously near.' 

Their eyes met ; Meenie's fell ; and they said no more. 
But they both felt they understood one another. Just at 
that moment the Professor's wife came up to interrupt the 
tete-a-tete; 'for that young Owen,' she said to herself, 'is 
really getting quite too confidential with dear Meenie.' 

That same evening Paul paced up and down his rooms in 
Peckwater with all his soul strangely upheaved within him 
and tossed and racked by a dozen conflicting doubts and 
passions. Had he gone too far } Had he yielded like Adam 
to the woman who beguiled him .'' Had he given way like 
Samson to the snares of Delilah ? For the old Scripture 
phraseology and imagery, so long burned into his very nature, 
clung to him still in spite of all his faltering changes of 
opinion. Had he said more than he thought and felt about 
the Apostle ? Even if he was going to revise his views, was 
it right, was it candid, was it loyal to the truth, that he 
should revise them under the biassing influence of Meenie's 
eyes ? If only he could have separated the two questions — 
the Apostle's mission, and the something which he felt 
growing up within him ! But he could not — and, as he sus- 
pected, for a most excellent reason, because the two were 
intimately bound up in the very warp and woof of his exist- 
ence. Nature was asserting herself against the religious 
asceticism of the Apostle ; it could not be so wrong for him 
to feel those feelings that had thrilled every heart in all his 
ancestors for innumerable generations. 

He was in love with Meenie : he knew that clearly now. 
And this love was after all not such a wicked and terrible 
feeling ; on the contrary, he felt all the better and the purer 
for it already. But then that might merely be the horrible 
seductiveness of the thing. Was it not always typified by 
the cup of Circe, by the song of the Sirens, by all that A\as 
alluring and beautiful and hollow ? He paced up and down 
228 



THE BACKSLIDER 

for half an hour, and then (he had sported his oak long ago) 
he lit his little reading-lamp and sat down in the big chair by 
the bay window. Running his eyes over his bookshelf, he 
took out, half by chance, Spencer's Sociology. Then, from 
sheer weariness, he read on for a while, hardly heeding what 
he read. At last he got interested, and finished a chapter. 
When he had finished it, he put the book down, and felt 
that the struggle was over. Strange that side by side in the 
same world, in the same London, there should exist two such 
utterly different types of man as Herbert Spencer and the 
Gideonite Apostle. The last seemed to belong to the six- 
teenth century, the first to some new and hitherto uncreated 
social world. In an age which produced thinkers like that, 
how could he ever have mistaken the poor, bigoted, narrow, 
half-instructed Apostle for a divinely inspired teacher ! So 
far as Paul Owen was concerned, the Gideonite Church 
and all that belonged to it had melted utterly into thin 
air. 

Three days later, after the Eights in the early evening, 
Paul found an opportunity of speaking again alone with 
Meenie. He had taken their party on to the Christ Church 
barge to see the race, and he was strolling with them after- 
wards round the meadow walk by the bank of the Cherwell. 
Paul managed to get a little in front with Meenie, and 
entered at once upon the subject of his late embarrassments. 

' I have thought it all over since. Miss Bolton/ he said 
— he half hesitated whether he should say ' Meenie ' or not, 
and she was half disappointed that he didn't, for they were 
both very young, and very young people fall in love so un- 
affectedly — ' I have thought it all over, and I have come to 
the conclusion that there is no help for it : I must break 
openly with the Church.' 

' Of course,' said Meenie, simply. 'That I understood.' 

He smiled at her ingenuousness. Such a very forward 
young person ! And yet he liked it. ' Well, the next thing 

229 



THE BACKSLIDER 

is, what to do about it. You see, I have really been obtain- 
ing my education, so to speak, under false pretences. I can't 
continue taking these good people's money after I have 
ceased to believe in their doctrines. I ought to have faced 
the question sooner. It was wrong of me to wait until — 
until it was forced upon me by other considerations.' 

This time it was Meenie who blushed. ' But you don't 
mean to leave Oxford without taking your degree .'' ' she 
asked quickly. 

' No, I think it will be better not. To stop here and try 
for a fellowship is my best chance of repaying these poor 
people the money which I have taken from them for no 
purpose.' 

' I never thought of that,' said Meenie. ' You are bound 
in honour to pay them back, of course.' 

Paul liked the instantaneous honesty of that ' of course.' 
It marked the naturally honourable character ; for, ' of 
course,' too, they must wait to marry (young people jump so) 
till all that money was paid off. ' Fortunately,' he said, ' I 
have lived economically, and have not spent nearly as much 
as they guaranteed. I got scholarships up to a hundred a 
year of my own, and I only took a hundred a year of theirs. 
They offered me two hundred. But there 's five years at a 
hundred, that makes five hundred pounds — a big debt to 
begin life with.' 

' Never mind,' said Meenie. ' You will get a fellowship, 
and in a few years you can pay it off.' 

' Yes,' said Paul, ^ I can pay it off. But I can never pay 
off the hopes and aspirations I have blighted. I must be- 
came a schoolmaster, or a barrister, or something of that sort, 
and never repay them for their self-sacrifice and devotion in 
making me whatever I shall become. They may get back 
their money, but they will have lost their cherished Apostle 
for ever.' 

' Mr. Owen,' Meenie answered solemnly, ' the seal of the 
230 



THE BACKSLIDER 

Apostolate lies far deeper than that. It was born in you^ 
and no act of yours can shake it off.' 

' Meenie/ he said, looking at her gently, with a changed 
expression — ' Meenie, we shall have to wait many years.' 

' Never mind, Paul,' she replied, as naturally as if he had 
been Paul to her all her life long, ' I can wait if you can. 
But what will you do for the immediate present .'' ' 

' I have my scholarship/ he said ; ' I can get on partly 
upon that ; and then I can take pupils ; and I have only one 
year more of it.' 

So before they parted that night it was all well understood 
between them that Paul was to declare his defection from 
the Church at tlie earliest opportunity ; that he was to live 
as best he might till he could take his degree ; that he was 
then to pay off all the back debt ; and that after all these 
things he and Meenie might get comfortably married when- 
ever they were able. As to the Rector and his wife, or any 
other parental authorities, they both left them out in the 
cold as wholly as young people always do leave their elders 
out on all similar occasions. 

' Maria's a born fool ! ' said the Rector to his wife a week 
after Meenie's return ; ' I always knew she was a fool, but I 
never knew she was quite such a fool as to permit a thing 
like this. So far as I can get it out of Edie, and so far as 
Edie can get it out of Meenie, I understand that she has 
allowed Meenie to go and get herself engaged to some Dis- 
senter fellow, a Shaker, or a Mormon, or a Communist, or 
something of the sort, who is the son of a common labourer, 
and has been sent up to Oxford, Tom tells me, by his own 
sect, to be made into a gentleman, so as to give some sort 
or colour of respectability to their absurd doctrines. I shall 
send the girl to town at once to Emily's, and she shall stop 
there all next season, to see if she can't manage to get 
engaged to some young man in decent society at any rate.' 

231 



THE BACKSLIDER 



III 



When Paul Owen returned to Peckham for the long 
vacation, it was with a heavy heart that he ventured back 
slowly to his father's cottage. Margaret Owen had put 
everything straight and neat in the little living room, as she 
always did, to welcome home her son who had grown into a 
gentleman ; and honest John stood at the threshold beaming 
with pleasure to wring Paul's hand in his firm grip, just back 
unwashed from his day's labour. After the first kissings 
and greetings were over, John Owen said rather solemnly, 
'I have bad news for you, Paul. The Apostle is sick, even 
unto death.' 

When Paul heard that, he was sorely tempted to put off 
the disclosure for the present ; but he felt he must not. So 
that same night, as they sat together in the dusk near the 
window where the geraniums stood, he began to unburden 
his whole mind, gently and tentatively, so as to spare their 
feelings as much as possible, to his father and mother. He 
told them how, since he went to Oxford, he had learned to 
think somewhat differently about many things ; how his ideas 
had gradually deepened and broadened ; how he had begun 
to inquire into fundamentals for himself; how he had feared 
that the Gideonites took too much for granted, and reposed 
too implicitly on the supposed critical learning of their 
Apostle. As he spoke his mother listened in tearful silence ; 
but his father murmured from time to time, ' I was afeard of 
this already, Paul ; I seen it coming, now and again, long 
ago.' There was pity and regret in his tone, but not a shade 
of reproachfulness. 

At last, however, Paul came to speak, timidly and re- 
servedly, of Meenie. Then his father's eye began to flash a 
little, and his breath came deeper and harder. When Paul 
232 



THE BACKSLIDER 

told him briefly that he was engaged to her, the strong man 
could stand it no longer. He rose up in righteous wrath, 
and thrust his son at arm's-length from him. 'What! ' he 
cried fiercely, ' you don't mean to tell me you have fallen into 
sin and looked upon the daughters of Midian ! It was no 
Scriptural doubts that druv you on, then, but the desire of 
the flesh and the lust of the eyes that has lost you ! You 
dare to stand up there, Paul Owen, and tell me that you 
throw over the Church and the Apostle for the sake of a 
girl, like a poor miserable Samson ! You are no son of 
mine, and I have nothin' more to say to you.' 

But Margaret Owen put her hand on his shoulder and 
said softly, ' John, let us hear him out.' And John, recalled 
by that gentle touch, listened once more. Then Paul 
pleaded his case powerfully again. He quoted Scripture to 
them ; he argued with them, after their own fashion, and 
down to their own comprehension, text by text ; he pitted 
his own critical and exegetical faculty against the Apostle's. 
Last of all, he turned to his mother, who, tearful still and 
heartbroken with disappointment, yet looked admiringly 
upon her learned, eloquent boy, and said to her tenderly, 
' Remember, mother, you yourself were once in love. You 
yourself once stood, night after night, leaning on the gate, 
waiting with your heart beating for a footstep that you knew 
so well. You yourself once counted the days and the hours 
and the minutes till the next meeting came.' And Margaret 
Owen, touched to the heart by that simple appeal, kissed 
him fervently a dozen times over, the hot tears dropping on 
his cheek meanwhile ; and then, contrary to all the rules of 
their austere Church, she flung her arms round her husband 
too, and kissed him passionately the first time for twenty 
years, with all the fervour of a floodgate loosed. Paul 
Owen's apostolate had surely borne its first fruit. 

The father stood for a moment in doubt and terror, like 
one stunned or dazed, and then, in a moment of sudden 

233 



THE BACKSLIDER 

remembrance, stepped forward and returned the kiss. The 
spell was broken, and the Apostle's power was no more. 
What else passed in the cottage that night, when John 
Owen fell upon his knees and wrestled in spirit, was too 
wholly internal to the man's own soul for telling here. 
Next day John and Margaret Owen felt the dream of their 
lives was gone; but the mother in her heart rejoiced to 
think her boy might know the depths of love, and might 
bring home a real lady for his wife. 

On Sunday it was rumoured that the Apostle's ailment was 
very serious ; but young Brother Paul Owen would address 
the Chui'ch. He did so, though not exactly in the way the 
Church expected. He told them simply and plainly how he 
had changed his views about certain matters ; how he thanked 
them from his heart for the loan of their money (he was care- 
ful to emphasise the word /or7«), which had helped him to carry 
on his education at Oxford ; and how he would repay them 
the principal and interest, though he could never repay them 
the kindness, at the earliest possible opportunity. He was 
so grave, so earnest, so transparently true, that, in spite of 
the downfall of their dearest hopes, he carried the whole 
meeting with him, all save one man. That man was Job 
Grimshaw. Job rose from his place with a look of undis- 
guised triumph as soon as Paul had finished, and, mounting 
the platform quietly, said his say. 

' I knew, Episcops, Presbyters, and Brethren,' he began, 
' how this 'ere young man would finish. I saw it the day 
he was appinted. He 's flushing up now the same as he 
flushed up then when I spoke to him ; and it ain't sperritual, 
it 's worldly pride and headstrongness, that 's what it is. 
He 's had our money, and he 's had his eddication, and now 
he's going to round on us, just as I said he would. It 's all 
very well talking about paying us back : how 's a young 
man like him to get five hunderd pounds, I should like to 
know. And if he did even, what sort o' repayment would 
234 



THE BACKSLIDER 

that be to many of the brethren, who 've saved and scraped 
for five year to let him live like a gentleman among the 
great and the mighty o' Midian ? He 's got his eddication out 
of us^ and he can keep that whatever happens^ and make a 
living out of it, too ; and now he 's going back on us, same 
as I said he would, and, having got all he can out of the 
Church, he s going to chuck it away like a sucked orange. 
I detest such backsliding and such ungratefulness.' 

Paul's cup of humiliation was fidl, but he bit his lip till 
the blood almost came, and made no answer. 

' He boasted in his own strength,' Job went on merci- 
lessly, ' that he wasn't going to be a backslider, and he 
wasn't going to sign no bond, and he wasn't going to confer 
with us, but we must trust his honour and honesty, and such 
like. I 've got his very words written down in my notebook 
'ere ; for I made a note of 'em, foreseeing this. If we 'd 'a' 
bound him down, as I proposed, he wouldn't 'a' dared to go 
backsliding and rounding on us, and making up to the 
daughters of Midian, as I don't doubt but what he 's been 
doing.' Paul's tell-tale face showed him at once that he had 
struck by accident on the right choi'd. ' But if he ever goes 
bringing a daughter of Midian here to Peckham,' Job con- 
tinued, ' we '11 show her these very notes, and ask her what 
she thinks of such dishonourable conduct. The Apostle 's 
dying, that 's clear ; and before he dies I warrant he shall 
know this treachery.' 

Paul could not stand that last threat. Though he had 
lost faith in the Apostle as an Apostle, he could never forget 
the allegiance he had once borne him as a father, or the 
spell which his powerful individuality had once thrown 
around him as a teacher. To have embittered that man 's 
dying bed with the shadow of a terrible disappointment 
would be to Paul a lifelong subject of deep remorse. 'I 
did not intend to open my mouth in answer to you, Mr. 
Grimshaw,' he said (for the first time breaking through the 

235 



THE BACKSLIDER 

customary address of Brother)^ ' but I pray you, I entreat 
you, I beseech you, not to harass the Apostle in his last 
moments with such a subject.' 

' Oh yes, I suppose so,' Job Grimshaw answered maliciousl}', 
all the ingrained coarseness of the man breaking out in the 
wrinkles of his face. 'No wonder you don't want him 
enlightened about your goings on with the daughters of 
Midian, when you must know as well as I do that his life 
ain't worth a day 's purchase, and that he 's a man of in- 
dependent means, and has left you every penny he 's got 
in his will, because he believes you 're a fit successor to 
the Apostolate. I know it, for I signed as a witness, and I 
read it through, being a short one, while the other witness 
was signing. And you must know it as well as I do. I 
suppose you don't think he '11 make another will now; but 
there's time enough to burn that one anyhow.' 

Paul Owen stood aghast at the vulgar baseness of which 
this lewd fellow supposed him 'capable. He had never 
thought of it before ; and yet it flashed across his mind in a 
moment how obvious it was now. Of course the Apostle 
would leave him his money. He was being educated for 
the Apostolate, and the Apostolate could not be carried on 
without the sinews of war. But that Job Grimshaw should 
think him guilty of angling for the Apostle's money, and 
then throwing the Church overboard — the bare notion of it 
was so horrible to him that he could not even hold up his 
head to answer the taunt. He sat down and buried his 
crimson face in his hands ; and Job Grimshaw, taking up his 
hat sturdily, with the air of a man who has to perform an 
unpleasant duty, left the meeting-room abruptly without 
another word. 

There was a gloomy Sunday dinner that morning in the 

mason's cottage, and nobody seemed much inclined to speak 

in any way. But as they were in the midst of their solemn 

meal, a neighbour who was also a Gideonite came in hurriedly. 

236 



THE BACKSLIDER 

'It's all over/ he said, breathless — 'all over with us and 
with the Church. The Apostle is dead. He died this 
morning.' 

Margaret Owen found voice to ask, ' Before Job Grimshaw 
saw him ? ' 

The neighbour nodded, 'Yes.' 

' Thank Heaven for that ! ' cried Paul. ' Then he did not 
die misunderstanding me ! ' 

' And you '11 get his money,' added the neighbour, ' for I 
was the other witness.' 

Paul drew a long breath. ' I wish Meenie was here,' he 
said. ' I must see her about this.' 



IV 

A few days later the Apostle was buried, and his will was 
read over before the assembled Church. By earnest per- 
suasion of his father, Paul consented to be present, though 
he feared another humiliation from Job Grimshaw. But two 
days before he had taken the law into his own hands, by 
writing to Meenie, at her aunt's in Eaton Place ; and that 
very indiscreet young lady, in response, had actually con- 
sented to meet him in Kensington Gardens alone the next 
afternoon. There he sat with her on one of the benches by 
the Serpentine, and talked the whole matter over with her 
to his heart's content. 

' If the money is really left to me,' he said, ' I must in 
honour refuse it. It was left to me to carry on the Aposto- 
late, and I can't take it on any other ground. But what 
ought I to do with it ? I can't give it over to the Church, 
for in three days there will be no Church left to give it to. 
What shall I do with it ? ' 

' Why,' said Meenie, thoughtfully, ' if I were you, I should 
do this. First, pay back everybody who contributed towards 

237 



THE BACKSLIDER 

your support in full, principal and interest ; then borrow 
from the remainder as much as you require to complete your 
Oxford course ; and finally, pay back all that and the other 
money to the fund when you are able, and hand it over for 
the purpose of doing some good work in Peckham itself, 
where your Church was originally founded. If the ideal 
can't be fulfilled, let the money do something good for the 
actual.' 

' You are quite right, Meenie,' said Paul, ' except in one 
particular. I will not borrow from the fund for my own 
support. I will not touch a penny of it, temporarily or per- 
manently, for myself in any way. If it comes to me, I shall 
make it over to trustees at once for some good object, as you 
suggest, and shall borrow from them five hundred pounds to 
repay my own poor people, giving the trustees my bond to 
re})ay the fund hereafter. I shall fight my own battle 
henceforth unaided.' 

' You will do as you ought to do, Paul, and I am proud 
of it.' 

So next morning, when the meeting took place, Paul felt 
somewhat happier in his own mind as to the course he should 
pursue with reference to Job Grimshaw. 

The Senior Episcop opened and read the last will and 
testament of Arthur Murgess, attorney-at-law. It provided, 
in a few words, that all his estate, real and personal, should 
pass unreservedly to his friend, Paul Owen, of Christ Church, 
Oxford. It w^as whispered about that, besides the house and 
grounds, the personalty might be sworn at eight thousand 
pounds, a vast sura to those simple people. 

When the reading was finished, Paul rose and addressed 
the assembly. He told them briefly the plan he had formed, 
and insisted on his determination that not a penny of the 
money should be put to his own uses. He would face the 
world for himself, and thanks to their kindness he could face 
it easily enough. He would still earn and pay back all that 
238 



THE BACKSLIDER 

he owed them. He would use the fund, first for the good 
of those who had been members of the Church, and after- 
wards for the good of the people of Peckham generally. 
And he thanked them from the bottom of his heart for the 
kmdness they had shown him. 

Even Job Grimshaw could only mutter to himself that 
this was not sperritual grace, but mere worldly pride and 
stubbornness, lest the lad should betray his evil designs, 
which had thus availed him nothing. ' He has lost his own 
soul and wrecked the Church for the sake of the money,' Job 
said, ' and now he dassn't touch a fai'den of it.' 

Next John Owen rose and said slowly, ' Friends, it seems 
to me we may as well all confess that this Church has gone 
to pieces. I can't stop in it myself any longer, for I see it 's 
clear agin nature, and what's agin nature can't be true.' 
And though the assembly said nothing, it was plain that there 
were many waverers in the little body whom the affairs of 
the last week had shaken sadly in their simple faith. In- 
deed, as a matter of fact, before the end of the month the 
Gideonite Church had melted away, member by member, 
till nobody at all was left of the whole assembly but Job 
Grimshaw. 

' My dear,' said the Rector to his wife a few weeks latei', 
laying down his Ilhtstrated, 'this is really a very curious 
thing. That young fellow Owen, of Christ Church, that 
Meenie fancied herself eno-aged to, has just come into a 
little landed property and eight or nine thousand pounds on 
his own account. He must be better connected than Tom 
imagines. Perhaps we might make inquiries about him 
after all.' 

The Rector did make inquiries in the course of the week, 
and with such results that he returned to the i-ectory in 
blank amazement. 'That fellow's mad, Amelia,' he said, 
' stark mad, if ever anybody was. The leader of his Little 
Bethel, or Ebenezer, or whatever it may be, has left him all 

239 



THE BACKSLIDER 

his property absolutely, without conditions ; and the idiot 
of a boy declares he won't touch a penny of it, because he 's 
ceased to believe in their particular shibboleth, and he thinks 
the leader wanted him to succeed him. Very right and 
proper of him, of course, to leave the sect if he can't recon- 
cile it with his conscience, but perfectly Quixotic of him to 
give up the money and beggar himself outright. Even if his 
connection was otherwise desirable (which it is far from 
being), it would be absurd to think of letting Meenie many 
such a ridiculous hare-brained fellow.' 

Paul and Meenie, however, went their own way, as young 
people often will, in spite of the Rector. Paul returned 
next term to Oxford, penniless, but full of resolution, and by 
dint of taking pupils managed to eke out his scholarship for 
the next year. At the end of that time he took his first in 
Greats, and shortly after gained a fellowship. From the 
very first day he began saving money to pay off that dead 
weight of five hundred pounds. The kindly ex-Gideonites 
had mostly protested against his repaying them at all, but in 
vain : Paul would not make his entry into life, he said, under 
false pretences. It was a hard pull, but he did it. He took 
pupils, he lectured, he wrote well and vigorously for the 
press, he worked late and early with volcanic energy ; and 
by the end of three years he had not only saved the whole 
of the sura advanced by the Gideonites, but had also begun 
to put away a little nest-egg against his marriage with 
Meenie. And when the editor of a great morning paper in 
London offered him a permanent place upon the staff, at a 
large salary, he actually went down to Worcestershire, saw 
the formidable Rector himself in his own parish, and 
demanded Meenie outright in marriage. And the Rector 
observed to his wife that this young Owen seemed a well- 
behaved and amiable young man ; that after all one needn't 
know anything about his relations if one didn't like ; and 
that as Meenie had quite made up her mind, and was as 
240 



THE BACKSLIDER 

headstrong as a mule, there was no use trying to oppose her 
any longer. 

Down in Peckham, where Paul Owen lives, and is loved 
by half the poor of the district, no one has forgotten who 
was the real founder of the Murgess Institute, which does so 
much good in encouraging thrift, and is so admirably man- 
aged by the founder and his wife. He would take a house 
nowhere but at Peckham, he said. To the Peckham people 
he owed his education, and for the Peckham people he would 
watch the working of his little Institute. There is no better 
work being done anywhere in that great squalid desert, the 
east and south-east of London ; there is no influence more 
magnetic than the founder's. John and Margaret Owen 
have recovered their hopes for their boy, only they run now 
in another and more feasible direction ; and those who wit- 
ness the good that is being done by the Institute among the 
poor of Peckham, or who have read that remarkable and 
brilliant economical work lately published on ' The Future 
of Co-operation in the East End, by P. O.,' venture to be- 
lieve that Meenie was right after all, and that even the great 
social world itself has not yet heard the last of young Paul 
Owen's lay apostolate. 



241 



X 
JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

Cecil Mitford sat at a desk in the Record Office with a 
stained and tattered sheet of dark dirty-brown antique 
paper spread before him in triumph, and with an eager air 
of anxious inquiry speaking forth from every line in his 
white face and every convulsive twitch at the irrepressible 
corners of his firm pallid mouth. Yes, there was no doubt 
at all about it ; the piece of torn and greasy paper which he 
had at last discovered was nothing more or less than John 
Cann's missing letter. For two years Cecil Mitford had 
given up all his spare time, day and night, to the search for 
that lost fragment of ci-abbed seventeenth-century hand- 
writing ; and now at length, after so many disappointments 
and so much fruitless anxious hunting, the clue to the 
secret of John Cann's treasure was lying there positively 
before him. The young man's hand trembled violently as 
he held the paper fast, unopened in his feverish grasp, and 
read upon its back the autograph endorsement of Charles 
the Second's Secretary of State — ' Letter in cypher from lo. 
Cann, the noted Buccaneer, to his brother Will*",, inter- 
cepted at Port Royal by his Ma*'**^ command, and despatched 
by General Ed. D'Oyley, his Ma"''^ Captain-Gen^ and 
Governor-in-Chief of the Island of Jamaica, to me, 
H. Nicholas.' That was it, beyond the shadow of a doubt ; 
and though Cecil Mitford had still to apply to the cypher 
John Cann's own written key, and to find out the precise 
import of the directions it contained, he felt at that moment 

245 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

that the secret was now at last virtually discovered, and 
that John Cann's untold thousands of buried wealth were 
potentially his very own already. 

He was only a clerk in the Colonial Office, was Cecil 
Mitford, on a beggarly income of a hundred and eighty a 
year — how small it seemed now, when John Cann's money 
was actually floating before his mind's-eye ; but he had 
brains and industry and enterprise after a fitful adventurous 
fashion of his own ; and he had made up his mind years 
before that he would find out the secret of John Cann's 
buried treasure, if he had to spend half a lifetime on the 
almost hopeless quest. As a boy, Cecil Mitford had been 
brought up at his father' rectory on the slopes of Dartmoor, 
and there he had played from his babyhood upward among 
the rugged gi'anite boulders of John Cann's rocks, and had 
heard from the farm labourers and the other children 
around the romantic but perfectly historical legend of John 
Cann's treasure. Unknown and incredible sums in Mexican 
doubloons and Spanish dollars lay guarded by a strong 
oaken chest in a cavern on the hilltop, long since filled up 
with flints and mould from the neighbouring summits. To 
that secure hiding-place the great buccaneer had committed 
the hoard gathered in his numberless piratical expeditions, 
burying all together under the shadow of a petty porphyritic 
tor that overhangs the green valley of Bovey Tracy. Beside 
the bare rocks that mark the site, a perfectly distinct 
pathway is worn by footsteps into the granite platform 
underfoot ; and that path, little Cecil Mitford had heard 
with childish awe and wonder, was cut out by the pacing 
up and down of old John Cann himself, mounting guard 
in the darkness and solitude over the countless treasure 
that he had hidden away in the recesses of the pixies' hole 
beneath. 

As young Mitford grew up to man's estate, this story of 
John Cann's treasure haunted his quick imagination for 
246 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

many years with wonderful vividness. When he first came 
up to London, after his father's death, and took his paltry 
clerkship in the Colonial Office — how he hated the place, 
with its monotonous drudgery, while John Cann's wealth 
was only waiting for him to take it and floating visibly 
before his prophetic eyes ! — the story began for a while to 
fade out under the disillusioning realities of respectable 
poverty and a petty Government post. But before he had 
been many months in the West India department (he had 
a small room on the third floor, overlooking Downing Street) 
a casual discovery made in overhauling the archives of the 
office suddenly revived the boyish dream with all the added 
realism and cool intensity of maturer years. He came 
across a letter from John Cann himself to the Protector 
Oliver, detailing the particulars of a fierce irregular engage- 
ment with a Spanish privateer, in which the Spaniard had 
been captured with much booty, and his vessel duly sold 
to the highest bidder in Port Royal harbour. This curious 
coincidence gave a great shock of surprise to young Mitford. 
John Cann, then, was no mythical prehistoric hero, no fairy- 
king or pixy or barrow-haunter of the popular fancy, but an 
actual genuine historical figure, who corresponded about 
his daring exploits with no less a personage than Oliver 
himself! From that moment forth, Cecil Mitford gave 
himself up almost entirely to tracing out the forgotten 
history of the old buccaneer. He allowed no peace to the 
learned person who took care of the State Papers of the 
Commonwealth at the Record Office, and he established 
private relations, by letter, with two or three clerks in the 
Colonial Secretary's Office at Kingston, Jamaica, whom he 
induced to help him in reconstructing the lost story of John 
Cann's life. 

Bit by bit Cecil Mitford had slowly pieced together a 
wonderful mass of information, buried under piles of ragged 
manuscript and weary reams of dusty documents, about the 

247 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

days and doings of that ancient terror of the Spanish Main. 
John Cann was a Devonshire lad, of the rolHcking, roving 
seventeenth century, born and bred at Bovey Tracy, on the 
flanks of Dartmooi-, the last survivor of those sea-dogs of 
Devon who had sallied forth to conquer and explore a new 
Continent under the guidance of Drake, and Raleigh, and 
Frobisher, and Hawkins. As a boy, he had sailed with his 
father in a ship that bore the Queen's letters of marque and 
reprisal against the Spanish galleons ; in his middle life, he 
had lived a strange roaming existence — half pirate and half 
privateer, intent upon securing the Protestant religion and 
punishing the King's enemies by robbing wealthy Spanish 
skippers and cutting off the recusant noses of vile Papistical 
Cuban slave-traders ; in his latter days, the fierce, half- 
savage old mariner had relapsed into sheer robbery, and 
had been hunted down as a public enemy by the Lord 
Protector's servants, or later still by the Captains-General 
and Governors-in-Chief of his Most Sacred Majesty's 
Dominions in the West Indies. For what was legitimate 
warfare in the spacious days of great Elizabeth, had come 
to be regai'ded in the degenerate reign of Charles H. as 
rank piracy. 

One other thing Cecil Mitford had discovered, with 
absolute certainty ; and that was that in the summer of 
1660, 'the year of his Ma'^i®* most happy restoration,' as 
John Cann himself phrased it, the persecuted and much 
misunderstood old buccaneer had paid a secret visit to 
England, and had brought with him the whole hoard which 
he had accumulated during sixty years of lawful or unlawful 
piracy in the West Indies and the Spanish Main. Concern- 
ing this hoard, which he had concealed somewhere in 
Devonshire, he kept up a brisk vernacular correspondence 
in cypher with his brother William, at Tavistock ; and the 
key to that cypher, marked outside ' A clew to my Bro. 
lohn's secret writing,' Cecil Mitford had been fortunate 
248 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

enough to unearth among the undigested masses of the 
Record Office. But one letter, the last and most important of 
the whole series, containing as he believed the actual state- 
ment of the hiding-place, had long evaded all his research : 
and that was the letter which, now at last, after months and 
months of patient inquiry, lay unfolded before his dazzled 
eyes on the little desk in his accustomed corner. It had 
somehow been folded up by mistake in the papers relating 
to the charge against Cyriack Skinner, of complicity in the 
Rye House Plot. How it got there nobody knows, and 
probably nobody but Cecil Mitford himself could ever have 
succeeded in solving the mystery. 

As he gazed, trembling, at the precious piece of dusty 
much-creased paper, scribbled over in the unlettei*ed school- 
boy hand of the wild old sea-dog, Cecil Mitford could hardly 
restrain himself for a moment from uttering a cry. Untold 
wealth swam before his eyes : he could marry Ethel now, 
and let her drive in her own carriage ! Ah, what he would 
give if he might only shout in his triumph. He couldn't 
even read the words, he was so excited. But after a 
minute or two, he recovered his composure sufficiently to 
begin deciphering the crabbed writing, which constant 
practice and familiai-ity with the system enabled him to do 
immediately, without even referring to the key. And this 
was what, with a few minutes' inspection, Cecil Mitford 
slowly spelled out of the dirty manuscript : — 

'From Jamaica. This 23rd day of Jariy, 
in the Yeure of our Lord 1663. 
' My deare Bro., — I did not think to have written you 
againe, after the scurvie Trick you have played me in dis- 
closing my Affairs to that meddlesome Knight that calls 
himself the King's Secretary : but in truth your last Letter 
hath so moved me by your Vileness that I must needs reply 
thereto with all Expedicion. These are to assure you, then, 

249 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

that let you pray how you may, or gloze over your base 
treatment with fine cozening Words and fair Promises, 
you shall have neither lot nor scot in my Threasure, which 
is indeed as you surmise hidden away in England, but the 
Secret whereof I shall impart neither to you nor to no 
man. I have give commands, therefore, that the Paper 
whereunto I have committed the jilace of its hiding shall 
be buried with my own Body (when God please) in the 
grave-yarde at Port Royal in this Island : so that you shall 
never be bettered one Penny by your most Damnable 
Treachery and Double-facedness, For I know you, my 
deare Bro., in very truth for a prating Coxcomb, a scurvie 
cowardlie Knave, and a lying Thief of other Men's Reputa- 
tions. Therefore, no more herewith from your very 
humble Ser^* and Loving Bro., Iohn Cann, Capf* ' 

Cecil Mitford laid the paper down as he finished reading 
it with a face even whiter and paler than before, and with 
the muscles of his mouth trembling violently with sup- 
pressed emotion. At the exact second when he felt sure 
he had discovered the momentous secret, it had slipped 
mysteriously through his very fingers, and seemed now to 
float away into the remote distance, almost as far from his 
eager grasp as ever. Even there, in the musty Record 
Office, before all the clerks and scholars who were sitting 
about working carelessly at their desks at mere dilettante 
historical problems — the stupid prigs, how he hated them ! 
— he could hardly restrain the expression of his pent-up 
feelings at that bitter disappointment in the very hour of 
his fancied triumph. Jamaica ! How absolutely distant 
and unapproachable it sounded ! How hopeless the at- 
tempt to follow up the clue ! How utterly his day-dream 
had been dashed to the ground in those three minutes of 
silent deciphering ! He felt as if the solid earth was 
reeling beneath him, and he would have given the whole 
250 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

world if he could have put his face between his two hands 
on the desk and cried like a woman before the whole 
Record Office. 

For half an hour by the clock he sat there dazed and 
motionless, gazing in a blank disappointed fashion at the 
sheet of coffee-coloui'ed paper in front of him. It was 
late, and workers were dropping away one after another 
from the scantily peopled desks. But Cecil Mitford took 
no notice of them : he merely sat with his arms folded, 
and gazed abstractedly at that disappointing, disheart- 
ening, irretrievable piece of crabbed writing. At last an 
assistant came up and gently touched his arm. ' We 're 
going to close now, sir,' he said in his unfeeling official 
tone — ^just as if it were a mere bit of historical inquiry 
he was after — ' and I shall be obliged if you '11 put back 
the manuscripts you've been consulting into F. 27.' Cecil 
Mitford rose mechanically and sorted out the Cyriack 
Skinner papers into their proper places. Then he laid 
them quietly on the shelf, and walked out into the streets 
of London, for the moment a broken-hearted man. 

But as he walked home alone that clear warm summer 
evening, and felt the cool breeze blowing against his fore- 
head, he began to reflect to himself that, after all, all was 
not lost ; that in fact things really stood better with him 
now than they had stood that very morning, before he 
lighted upon John Cann's last letter. He had not dis- 
covered the actual hiding-place of the hoard, to be sure, 
but he now knew on John Cann's own indisputable 
authority, first, that there really was a hidden treasure ; 
second, that the hiding-place was really in England ; and 
thirds that full particulars as to the spot where it was 
buried might be found in John Cann's own coffin at Port 
Royal, Jamaica. It was a risky and difficult thing to open 
H coffin, no doubt ; but it was not impossible. No, not 
impossible. On the whole, putting one thing with another, 

251 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

in spite of his terrible galling disappointment, he was 
really nearer to the recovery of the treasure now than he 
had ever been in his life before. Till to-day, the final 
clue was missing ; to-day, it had been found. It was a 
difficult and dangerous clue to follow, but still it had been 
found. 

And yet, setting aside the question of desecrating a 
grave, how all but impossible it was for him to get to 
Jamaica ! His small funds had long ago been exhausted 
in prosecuting the research, and he had nothing on earth 
to live upon now but his wretched salary. Even if he 
could get three or six months' leave from the Colonial 
Office, which M'as highly improbable, how could he ever 
raise the necessary money for his passage out and home, 
as well as for the delicate and doubtful operation of 
searching for documents in John Cann's coffin? It was 
tantalising, it was horrible, it was unendurable ; but 
here, with the secret actually luring him on to discover it, 
he was to be foiled and baffled at the last moment by a 
mere paltry, petty, foolish consideration of two hundred 
pounds I Two hundred pounds ! How utterly ludicrous ! 
Why, John Cann's treasure would make him a man of 
fabulous wealth for a whole lifetime, and he was to be 
prevented from realising it by a wretched matter of two 
hundred pounds ! He would do anything to get it — for 
a loan, a mere loan ; to be repaid with cent, per cent, 
interest; but where in the world, where in the world, was 
he ever to get it from .'' 

And then, quick as lightning, the true solution of the 
whole difficulty flashed at once across his excited brain. 
He could borrow all the money if he chose from Ethel ! 
Poor little Ethel ; she hadn't much of her own ; but she 
had just enough to live very quietly upon with her Aunt 
Emily ; and, thank Heaven, it wasn't tied up with any of 
those bothering, meddling three-per-cent. -loving trustees ! 
252 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

She had her little all at her own disposal, and he could 
surely get two or three hundred pounds from her to 
secure for them both the boundless buried wealth of John 
Cann's treasure. 

Should he make her a confidante outright, and tell her 
what it was that he wanted the money for ? No, that 
would be impossible ; for though she had heard all about 
John Cann over and over again, she had not faith enough 
in the treasure — women are so unpractical — to hazard her 
little scrap of money on it ; of that he felt certain. She 
would go and ask old Mr. Cartwright's opinion ; and old 
Mr. Cartwright was one of those penny-wise, purblind, 
unimaginative old gentlemen who will never believe in 
anything until they 've seen it. Yet here was John Cann's 
money going a-begging, so to speak, and only waiting for 
him and Ethel to come and enjoy it. Cecil had no patience 
with those stupid, stick-in-the-mud, timid people who can 
see no further than their own noses. For Ethel's own 
sake he would borrow two or three hundred pounds from 
her, one way or another, and she would easily forgive him 
the harmless little deception when he paid her back a 
hundredfold out of John Cann's boundless treasure. 



II 



That very evening, without a minute's delay, Cecil 
determined to go round and have a talk with Ethel 
Sutherland. ' Strike while the iron 's hot,' he said to 
himself. ' There isn't a minute to be lost ; for who 
knows but somebody else may find John Cann's treasure 
before I do .'' ' 

Ethel opened the door to him herself; theirs was an old 
engagement of long standing, after the usual Government 
clerk's fashion ; and Aunt Emily didn't stand out so stiffly 

253 



JOHN CANNS TREASURE 

as many old maids do for the regular proprieties. Very 
pretty Ethel looked with her pale face and the red ribbon 
in her hair ; very pretty, but Cecil feared, as he looked 
into her dark hazel eyes, a little wearied and worn-out, 
for it was her music-lesson day, as he well remembered. 
Her music-lesson day ! Ethel Sutherland to give music- 
lessons to some wretched squealing children at the West- 
End, when all John Cann's wealth was lying there, un- 
counted, only waiting for him and her to take it and 
enjoy it ! The bare thought was a perfect purgatory to 
him. He must get that two hundred pounds to-night, or 
give up the enterpinse altogether. 

' Well, Ethel darling,' he said tenderly, taking her pretty 
little hand in his ; ' you look tired, dearest. Those horrid 
children have been bothering you again. How I wish we 
were married, and you were well out of it ! ' 

Ethel smiled a quiet smile of resignation. ' They are 
rather trying, Cecil,' she said gently, ' especially on days 
when one has got a headache ; but, after all, I 'm very glad 
to have the work to do ; it helps such a lot to eke out our 
little income. We have so very little, you know, even for 
two lonely women to live upon in simple little lodgings like 
these, that I 'm thankful I can do something to help dear 
Aunt Emily, who 's really goodness itself. You see, after 
all, I get very well paid indeed for the lessons.' 

' Ethel,' Cecil Mitford said suddenly, thinking it better to 
dash at once into the midst of business ; ' I 've come round 
this evening to talk with you about a means by which you 
can add a great deal with perfect safety to your little 
income. Not by lessons, Ethel darling ; not by lessons. 
I can't bear to see you working away the pretty tips off 
those dear little fingers of yours with strumming scales on 
the piano for a lot of stupid, gawky schoolgirls; it's by a 
much simpler way than that ; I know of a perfectly safe 
investment for that three hundred that you 've got in New 
234. 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

Zealand Four per Cents. Can you not have heard that New 
Zealand securities are in a very shaky way just at present ? ' 

' Very shaky, Cecil ? ' Ethel answered in surprise. ' Why, 
Mr. Cartwright told me only a week ago they were as safe 
as the Bank of England ! ' 

'Mr. Cartwright 's an ignorant old martinet/ Cecil replied 
vigorously. ' He thinks because the stock 's inscribed and 
the dividends are payable in Threadneedle Street, that the 
colony of New Zealand 's perfectly solvent. Now, I 'm in 
the Colonial Office, and I know a great deal better than 
that. New Zealand has over-borrowed, I assure you ; quite 
over-borrowed ; and a serious fall is certain to come sooner 
or later. Mark my words, Ethel darling ; if you don't sell 
out those New Zealand Fours, you '11 find your three hundred 
has sunk to a hundred and fifty in rather less than half no 
time ! ' 

Ethel hesitated, and looked at him in astonishment. 
' That 's very queer,' she said, ' for Mr. Cartwright wants me 
to sell out my little bit of Midland and put it all into the 
same New Zealands. He says they 're so safe and pay so well.' 

' Mr. Cartwright indeed ! ' Cecil cried contemptuously. 
' What means on earth has he of knowing } Didn't he 
advise you to buy nothing but three per cents., and then 
let you get some Portuguese Threes at fifty, which are 
really sixes, and exceedingly doubtful securities } What 's 
the use of trusting a man like that, I should like to know ? 
No, Ethel, if you '11 be guided by me — and I have special 
opportunities of knowing about these things at the Colonial 
Office — you'll sell out your New Zealands, and put them 
into a much better investment that I can tell you about. 
And if I were you, I 'd say nothing about it to Mr. 
Cartwright.' 

' But, Cecil, I never did anything in business before 
without consulting him ! I should be afraid of going quite 
wrong.' 

255 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

Cecil took her hand in his with real tenderness. Though 
he was trying to deceive her — for her own good — he loved 
her dearly in his heart of hearts, and hated himself for the 
deception he was remorsefully practising upon her. Yet, 
for her sake, he would go through with it. ' You must get 
accustomed to trusting 7uc instead of him, darling,' he said 
softly. ' When you are mine for ever, as I hope you will be 
soon, you will take my advice, of course, in all such matters, 
won't you .'' And you may as well begin by taking it now. 
I have great hopes, Ethel, that before very long my circum- 
stances will be so much improved that I shall be able to 
marry you — I hardly know how quickly ; perhaps even 
before next Christmas. But meanwhile, darling, I have 
something to break to you that I dare say will grieve you 
a little for the moment, though it 's for your ultimate good, 
birdie — for your ultimate good. The Colonial Office people 
have selected me to go to Jamaica on some confidential 
Government business, which may keep me there for three 
months or so. It 's a dreadful thing to be away from you so 
long, Ethel ; but if I manage the business successfully — and 
I shall, I know — I shall get promoted when I come back, 
well promoted, perhaps to the chief clerkship in the Depart- 
ment ; and then we could marry comfortably almost at 
once.' 

' To Jamaica ! Oh, Cecil ! How awfully far ! And 
suppose you were to get yellow fever or something.' 

' But I won't, Ethel ; I promise you I won't, and I '11 
guarantee it with a kiss, birdie; so now, that's settled. 
And then, consider the promotion ! Only three months, 
probably, and when I come back, we can be actually 
married. It's a wonderful stroke of luck, and I only 
heard of it this morning. I couldn't rest till I came and 
told you.' 

Ethel wiped a tear away silently, and only answered, 
' If you 're glad, Cecil dearest, I 'm glad too.' 
256 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

' Well now, Ethel/ Cecil Mitford went on as gaily as he 
could, ' that brings me up to the second point. I want you 
to sell out these wretched New Zealands, so as to take the 
money with me to invest on good mortgages in Jamaica. 
My expei'ience in West Indian matters— after three years 
in the Department — will enable me to lay it out for you at 
nine per cent. — nine per cent., observe, Ethel — on absolute 
security of landed property. Planters want money to 
improve their estates, and can't get it at less than that 
rate. Your three hundred would bring you in twenty-seven 
pounds^ Ethel ; twenty-seven pounds is a lot of money ! ' 

What could poor Ethel do ? In his plausible, affectionate 
manner — and all for her own good, too — Cecil talked her 
over quickly between love and business experience, coaxing 
kisses and nine per cent, interest, endearing names and 
knowledge of West Indian affairs, till helpless little Ethel 
willingly promised to give up her poor little three hundred, 
and even arranged to meet Cecil secretly on Thursday at 
the Bank of England, about Colonial Office dinner-hour, 
to effect the transfer on her own account, without saying 
a single word about it to Aunt Emily or Mr. Cartwright. 
Cecil's conscience — for he had a conscience, though he did 
his best to stifle it — gave him a bitter twinge every now and 
then, as one question after another drove him time after 
time into a fresh bit of deceit ; but he tried to smile and 
smile and be a villain as unconcernedly and lightly as possible. 
Once only towards the end of the evening, when everything 
was settled, and Cecil had talked about his passage, and the 
important business with which he was intrusted, at full 
length, a gleam of suspicion seemed to flash for a single 
second across poor Ethel's deluded little brains, Jamaica 
— promotion — three hundred pounds — it was all so sudden 
and so connected ; could Cecil himself be trying to 
deceive her, and using her money for his wild treasure hunt? 
The doubt was horrible, degrading, unworthy of her or him ; 
R 257 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

and yet somehow for a single moment she could not help 
half-unconsciously entertaining it. 

'Cecil/ she said, hesitating, and looking into the very 
depths of his truthful blue eyes ; ' you 're not concealing 
anything from me, are you? It's not some journey con- 
nected with John Cann ? ' 

Cecil coughed and cleared his thi-oat uneasily, but by a 
great effort he kept his truthful blue eyes still fixed steadily 
on hers. (He would have given the world if he might have 
turned them away, but that would have been to throw up 
the game incontinently.) ' My darling Ethel,' he said 
evasively, ' how on earth could the Colonial Office have 
anything to do with John Cann ?' 

'Answer me Yes or No, Cecil. Do please answer me 
Yes or No.' 

Cecil kept his eyes still fixed immovably on hers, and 
without a moment's hesitation answered quickly ' No.' It 
was an awful wrench, and his lips could hardly frame the 
horrid falsehood, but for Ethel's sake he answered ' No.' 

' Then I know I can trust you, Cecil,' she said, laying her 
head for forgiveness on his shoulder. ' Oh, how wrong it 
was of me to doubt you for a second ! ' 

Cecil sighed uneasily, and kissed her white forehead 
without a single word. 

' After all,' he thought to himself, as he walked back to 
his lonely lodgings late that evening, ' I need never tell her 
anything about it. I can pretend, when I 've actually got 
John Cann's treasure, that I came across the clue accidentally 
while I was in Jamaica ; and I can lay out three hundred of 
it there in mortgages : and she need never know a single 
word about my innocent little deception. But indeed in the 
pride and delight of so much money, all our own, she '11 
probably never think at all of her poor little paltry three 
hundred.' 



258 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 



III 

It was an awfully long time, that eighteen days at sea, on 
the Royal Mail Steamship Don, bound for Kingston, Jamaica, 
with John Cann's secret for ever on one's mind, and nothing 
to do all day, by way of outlet for one's burning energy, but 
to look, hour after hour, at the monotonous face of the 
seething water. But at last the journey was over ; and 
before Cecil Mitford had been twenty-four hours at Date 
Tree Hall, the chief hotel in Kingston, he had already hired 
a boat and sailed across the baking hot harbour to Port 
Royal, to look in the dreary, sandy cemetery for any sign or 
token of John Cann's grave. 

An old grey-haired negro, digging at a fresh grave, had 
charge of the cemetery, and to him Cecil Mitford at once 
addressed himself, to find out whether any tombstone about 
the place bore the name of John Cann. The old man 
turned the name over carefully in his stolid brains, and 
then shook his heavy grey head with a decided negative. 
' Massa John Cann, sah,' he said dubiously, ' Massa John 
Cann ; it don't nobody buried here by de name ob Massa 
John Cann. I sartin, sah, becase I 's sexton in dis here 
cemetry dese fifty year, an' I know de grabe ob ebbery 
buckra gentleman dat ebber buried here since I fuss 
came.' 

Cecil Mitford tossed his head angrily. 'Since you first 
came, my good man,' he said with deep contempt. ' Since 
you first came ! Why, John Cann was buried here ages 
and ages before you yourself were ever born or thought of.' 

The old negro looked up at him inquiringly. There is 
nothing a negro hates like contempt ; and he answered 
back with a disdainful tone, ' Den I can find out if him 
ebber was buried here at all, as well as you, sah. We has 

259 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

register here ; we don't ignorant heathen. I has register in 
de church ob every pusson dat ebber buried in dis cemetry 
from de beiTy beginnin — from de year ob de great earth- 
quake itself. What year dis Massa John Cann him die, 
now .'' What year him die ? ' 

Cecil pricked up his ears at the mention of the register, 
and answered eagerly, ' In the year I669.' 

The old negro sat down quietly on a flat tomb, and 
answered with a smile of malicious triumph, ' Den you is 
ignorant know-nuffin pusson for a buckra gentleman, for 
true, sah, if you tink you will find him grabe in dis here 
cemetry. Don't you nebber read your history book, dat 
all Port Royal drowned in de great earthquake ob de year 
1692 } We has register here for ebbery year, from de year 
1692 downward; but de grabes, and de cemetery, and de 
register, from de year I692 upward, him all swallowed up 
entirely in de great earthquake, bress de Lord ! ' 

Cecil Mitford felt the earth shivering beneath him at that 
moment, as verily as the Port Royal folk had felt it shiver in 
1692. He clutched at the headstone to keep him from 
falling, and sat down hazily on the flat tomb, beside the 
grey-headed old negro, like one unmanned and utterly dis- 
heartened. It was all only too true. W^ith his intimate 
knowledge of John Cann's life, and of West Indian affairs 
generally, how on earth could he ever have overlooked it .'' 
John Cann's grave lay burled five fathoms deep, no doubt, 
under the blue waters of the Caribbean. And it was for 
this that he had madly thrown up his Colonial Office appoint- 
ment, for this that he had wasted Ethel's money, for this 
that he had burdened his conscience with a world of lies ; 
all to find in the end that John Cann's secret was 
hidden under five fathoms of tropical lagoon, among the 
scattered and water-logged ruins of Old Port Royal. His 
fortitude forsook him for a single moment, and burying his 
face in his two hands, there, under the sweltering mid-day 
260 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

heat of that deadly sandbank, he broke down utterly, and 
sobbed like a child before the very eyes of the now softened 
old negro sexton. 



IV 

It was not for long, however. Cecil Mitford had at least 
one strong quality — indomitable energy and perseverance. 
All was not yet lost : if need were, he would hunt for John 
Cann's tomb in the very submerged ruins of Old Port Royal. 
He looked up once more at the puzzled negro, and tried to 
bear this bitter downfall of all his hopes with manful 
resignation. 

At that very moment, a tall and commanding-looking man, 
of about sixty, with white ^ hair but erect figure, walked 
slowly from the cocoa-nut grove on the sand-spit into the 
dense and tangled precincts of the cemetery. He was a 
brown man, a mulatto apparently, but] his look and bearing 
showed him at once to be a person of education and dis- 
tinction in his own fashion. The old sexton rose up respect- 
fully as the stranger approached, and said to him in a very 
different tone from that in which he had addressed Cecil 
Mitford, ' Marnin, sah ; marnin, Mr. Barclay. Dis here 
buckra gentleman from Englan', him come 'quiring in de 
cemetry after de grabe of pusson dat dead before de great 
earthquake. What for him come here like-a-dat on fool's 
errand, eh, sah .'' What for him not larn before him come 
dat Port Royal all gone drowned in de year I692 .'' ' 

The new-comer raised his hat slightly to Cecil Mitford, 
and spoke at once in the grave gentle voice of an educated 
and cultivated mulatto. ' You wanted some antiquarian 
information about the island, sir ; some facts about some one 
who died before the Port Royal earthquake .'' You have 
luckily stumbled across the right man ' to help you ; for I 

261 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

think if anything can be recovered about anybody in Jamaica, 
I can aid you in recovering it. Whose grave did you want 
to see ? ' 

Cecil hardly waited to thank the polite stranger, but 
blurted out at once, 'The grave of John Cann, who died 
in 1669.' 

The stranger smiled quietly. ' What ! John Cann, the 
famous buccaneer .'' ' he said, with evident delight. ' Are 
you interested in John Cann ? ' 

' I am,' Cecil answered hastily. ' Do you know anything 
about him ? ' 

' I know all about him,' the tall mulatto replied, ' All 
about him in every way. He was not buried at Port 
Royal at all. He intended to be, and gave orders to that 
effect ; but his servants had him buried quietly elsewhere, 
on account of some dispute with the Governor of the time 
being, about some paper which he desired to have placed 
in his coffin.' 

'Where, where?' Cecil Mitford gasped out eagerly, 
clutching at this fresh straw with all the anxiety of a 
drowning man. 

' At Spanish Town,' the stranger answered calmly. ' I 
know his grave there well to the present day. If you 
are interested in Jamaican antiquities, and would like to 
come over and see it, I shall be happy to show you the 
tomb. That is my name.' And he handed Cecil Mitford 
his card, with all the courteous dignity of a born gentle- 
man. 

Cecil took the card and read the name on it : ' The 
Hon. Charles Barclay, Leigh Caymanas, Spanish Town.' 
How his heart bounded again that minute ! Proof was 
accumulating on proof, and luck on luck ! After all, he 
had tracked down John Cann's grave ; and the paper was 
really there, buried in his coffin. He took the handker- 
chief from his pocket and wiped his damp brow with a 
262 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

feeling of unspeakable relief. Ethel was saved, and they 
might still enjoy John Cann's treasure. 

Mr. Barclay sat down beside him on the stone slab, and 
began talking over all he knew about John Cann's life and 
actions. Cecil affected to be interested in all he said, 
though really he could think of one thing only : the trea- 
sure, the treasure, the treasure. But he managed also to 
let Mr. Barclay see how much he too knew about the old 
buccaneer; and Mr. Barclay, who was a simple-minded 
learned enthusiast for all that concerned the antiquities 
of his native island, was so won over by this display of 
local knowledge on the part of a stranger and an English- 
man, that he ended by inviting Cecil over to his house 
at Spanish Town, to stop as long as he was able. Cecil 
gladly accepted the invitation, and that very afternoon, 
with a beating heart, he took his place in the lumbering 
train that carried him over to the final goal of his Jamaican 
expedition. 



V 

In a corner of the Cathedral graveyard at Spanish Town, 
overhung by a big spreading mango tree, and thickly covered 
by prickly scrub of agave and cactus, the white-haired old 
mulatto gentleman led Cecil Mitford up to a water-worn 
and weathered stone, on which a few crumbling letters 
alone were still visible. Cecil kneeled down on the bare 
ground, regardless of the sharp cactus spines that stung and 
tore his flesh, and began clearing the moss and lichen away 
from the neglected monument. Yes, his host was right ! 
right, right, right, indubitably. The first two letters were 
lo, then a blank where others were obliterated, and then 
came ann. That stood clearly for Iohn Cann. And below 
he could slowly make out the words, ' Born at . . . vey 

263 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

Tra . . . Devon . . ,' with an illegible date, ' Died at 
P . . . Royal, May 12, 1669.' Oh, great heavens, yes. 
John Cann's grave ! John Cann's grave ! John Cann's 
grave ! Beyond any shadow or suspicion of mistake, John 
Cann and his precious secret lay buried below that moulder- 
ing tombstone. 

That very evening Cecil Mitford sought out and found 
the Spanish Town gravedigger. He was a solemn-looking 
middle-aged black man, with a keen smart face, not the 
wrong sort of man, Cecil Mitford felt sure, for such a job 
as the one he contemplated. Cecil didn't beat about the 
bush or temporise with him in any way. He went straight 
to the point, and asked the man outright whether he would 
undertake to open John Cann's grave, and find a paper that 
was hidden in the coffin. The gravedigger stared at him, 
and answered slowly, ' I don't like de job, sah ; I don't like 
de job. Perhaps Massa John Cann's ghost, him come and 
trouble me for dat : I don't going to do it. What you gib 
me, sah ; how much you gib me ? ' 

Cecil opened his purse and took out of it ten gold 
sovereigns. ' I will give you that,' he said, ' if you can get 
me the paper out of John Cann's coffin.' 

The negro's eyes glistened, but he answered carelessly, 
' I don't tink I can do it. I don't want to open grabe by 
night, and if I open him by day, de magistrates dem will 
hab me up for desecration ob interment. But I can do dis 
for you, sah. If you like to wait till some buckra gentleman 
die — John Cann grabe among de white man side in de 
grabeyard — -I will dig grabe alongside ob John Cann one 
day, so let you come yourself in de night and take what 
you like out ob him coffin. I don't go meddle with coffin 
myself, to make de John Cann duppy trouble me, and 
magistrate send me off about me business.' 

It was a risky thing to do, certainly, but Cecil Mitford 
closed with it, and promised the man ten pounds if ever he 
264 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

could recover John Cann's paper. And then he settled down 
quietly at Leigh Caymanas with his friendly host, waiting 
with eager, anxious expectation — till some white pei'son 
should die at Spanish Town. 

What an endless aimless time it seemed to wait before 
anybody could be comfortably buried ! Black people died 
by the score, of course : there was a smallpox epidemic on, 
and they went to wakes over one another's dead bodies in 
wretched hovels among the back alleys, and caught the 
infection and sickened and died as fast as the wildest 
imagination could wish them ; but then, they were buried 
apart by themselves in the pauper part of the Cathedral 
cemetery. Still, no white man caught the smallpox, and 
few raulattoes : they had all been vaccinated, and nobody 
got ill except the poorest negroes. Cecil Mitford waited 
with almost fiendish eagerness to hear that some prominent 
white man was dead or dying. 

A month, six weeks, two months, went slowly past, and 
still nobody of consequence in all Spanish Town fell ill or 
sickened. Talk about tropical diseases ! why, the place was 
abominably, atrociously, outrageously healthy. Cecil Mit- 
ford fretted and fumed and worried by himself, wondering 
whether he would be kept there for ever and ever, waiting 
till some useless nobody chose to die. The worst of it all 
was, he could tell nobody his troubles : he had to pretend 
to look unconcerned and interested, and listen to all old 
Mr. Barclay's stories about Maroons and buccaneers as if 
he really enjoyed them. 

At last, after Cecil had been two full months at Spanish 
Town, he heard one morning with grim satisfaction that 
yellow fever had broken out at Port Antonio. Now, yellow 
fever, as he knew full well, attacks only white men, or men 
of white blood : and Cecil felt sure that before long there 
would be somebody white dead in Spanish Town. Not that 
he was really wicked or malevolent or even unfeeling at 

265 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

heart ; but his wild desire to discover John Canii's treasure 
had now overridden every better instinct of his nature^, and 
had enslaved him, body and soul, till he could think of 
nothing in any light save that of its bearing on his one 
mad imagination. So he waited a little longer, still more 
eagerly than before, till yellow fever should come to Spanish 
Town. 

Sure enough the fever did come in good time, and the 
very first person who sickened with it was Cecil Mitford. 
That was a contingency he had never dreamt of, and for the 
time being it drove John Cann's treasure almost out of his 
fevered memory. Yet not entirely, even so, for in his de- 
lirium he i-aved of John Cann and his doubloons till good 
old Mr. Barclay, nursing at his bedside like a woman, as a 
tender-hearted mulatto always will nurse any casual young 
white man, shook his head to himself and muttered gloomily 
that poor Mr. Mitford had overworked his brain sadly in his 
minute historical investigations. 

For ten days Cecil Mitford hovered fitfully between life 
and death, and for ten days good old Mi*. Barclay waited on 
him, morning, noon, and night, as devotedly as any mother 
could wait upon her first-born. At the end of that time he 
began to mend slowly ; and as soon as the crisis was over he 
forgot forthwith all about his illness, and thought once more 
of nothing on earth save only John Cann's treasure. Was 
anybody else ill of the fever in Spanish Town? Yes, two, 
but not dangerously. Cecil's face fell at that saving clause, 
and in his heart he almost ventured to wish it had been 
otherwise. He was no murderer, even in thought ; but John 
Cann's treasure ! John Cann's treasure ! John Cann's trea- 
sure ! What would not a man venture to do or pray, in 
order that he might become the possessor of John Cann's 
treasure ? 

As Cecil began to mend, a curious thing happened at 
Leigh Caymanas, contrary to almost all the previous medical 
266 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

experience of the whole Island. Mr. Barclay, though a full 
mulatto, of half-black blood, suddenly sickened with the 
yellow fever. He had worn himself out with nursing Cecil, 
and the virus seemed to have got into his blood in a way 
that it would never have done under other circumstances. 
And when the doctor came to see him, he declared at once 
that the symptoms were very serious. Cecil hated and 
loathed himself for the thought ; and yet, in a horrid, inde- 
finite way he gloated over the possibility of his kind and 
hospitable friend's dying. Mr. Barclay had tended him so 
carefully that he almost loved him ; and yet, with John 
Cann's treasure before his very eyes, in a dim, uncertain, 
awful fashion, he almost looked forward to his dying. But 
where would he be buried ? that was the question. Not, 
surely, among the poor black people in the pauper corner. 
A man of his host's distinction and position would certainly 
deserve a place among the most exalted white graves — 
near the body of Governor Modyford, and not far from the 
tomb of John Cann himself. 

Day after day Mr. Barclay sank slowly but surely, and 
Cecil, weak and hardly convalescent himself, sat watching 
by his bedside, and nursing him as tenderly as the good 
brown man had nursed Cecil himself in his turn a week 
earlier. The young clerk was no hard-hearted wretch who 
could see a kind entertainer die without a single passing 
pang ; he felt for the grey old mulatto as deeply as he could 
have felt for his own brother, if he had had one. Every 
time there was a sign of suffering or feebleness, it went to 
Cecil's heart like a knife — the very knowledge that on one 
side of his nature he wished the man to die made him all the 
more anxious and careful on the other side to do everything 
he could to save him, if possible, or at least to alleviate his 
sufferings. Poor old man ! it was horrible to see him lying 

there, parched with fever and dying by inches ; but then 

John Cann's treasure ! John Cann's treasure ! John Cann's 

267 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

treasure ! every shade that passed over the good mulatto's 
face brought Cecil Mitford a single step nearer to the final 
enjoyment of John Cann's treasure. 



VI 

On the evening when the Hon. Charles Barclay died, 
Cecil Mitford went out, for the first time after his terrible 
illness, to speak a few words in private with the negro sexton. 
He found the man lounging in the soft dust outside his hut, 
and ready enough to find a place for the corpse (which would 
be buried next morning, with the ordinary tropical haste) 
close beside the spot actually occupied by John Cann's 
coffin. All the rest, the sexton said with a horrid grin, he 
would leave to Cecil. 

At twelve o'clock of a dark moonless night, Cecil Mitford, 
still weak and ill, but trembling only from the remains of 
his fever, set out stealthily from the dead man's low bunga- 
low in the outskirts of Spanish Town, and walked on alone 
through the unlighted, unpaved streets of the sleeping city 
to the Cathedral precinct. Not a soul met or passed him on 
the way through the lonely alleys ; not a solitary candle 
burned anywhere in a single window. He carried only a 
little dark lantern in his hand, and a very small pick that he 
had borrowed that same afternoon from the negro sexton. 
Stumbling along through the unfamiliar lanes, he saw at last 
the great black mass of the gaunt ungainly Cathedral, stand- 
ing out dimly against the hardly less black abyss of night 
that formed the solemn background. But Cecil Mitford was 
not awed by place or season ; he could think only of one 
subject, John Cann's treasure. He groped his way easily 
through scrub and monuments to the far corner of the 
churchyard ; and there, close by a fresh and open grave, he 
268 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

saw the well-remembered, half-effaced letters that marked 
the mouldering upright slab as John Cann's gravestone. 
Without a moment's delay, without a touch of hesitation, 
without a single tinge of womanish weakness, he jumped 
down boldly into the open grave and turned the light side 
of his little lantern in the direction of John Cann's unde- 
secrated coffin. 

A few strokes of the pick soon loosened the intervening 
earth sufficiently to let him get at a wooden plank on the 
nearer side of the coffin. It had mouldered away with damp 
and age till it was all quite soft and pliable ; and he broke 
through it with his hand alone, and saw lying within a heap 
of huddled bones, which he knew at once for John Cann's 
skeleton. Under any other circumstances, such a sight, seen 
in the dead of night, with all the awesome accessories of 
time and place, would have chilled and appalled Cecil Mit- 
ford's nervous blood ; but he thought nothing of it all now ; 
his whole soul was entirely concentrated on a single idea — 
the search for the missing paper. Leaning over toward the 
breach he had made into John Cann's grave, he began 
groping about with his right hand on the floor of the coffin. 
After a moment's search his fingers came across a small rusty 
metal object, clasped, apparently, in the bony hand of the 
skeleton. He drew it eagerly out; it was a steel snuff-box. 
Prising open the corroded hinge with his pocket-knife, he 
found inside a small scrap of dry paper. His fingers trem- 
bled as he held it to the dark lantern ; oh heavens, success ! 
success ! it was, it was — the missing document ! 

He knew it in a moment by the handwriting and the 
cypher ! He couldn't wait to read it till he went home to 
the dead man's house ; so he curled himself up cautiously in 
Charles Barclay's open grave, and proceeded to decipher the 
crabbed manuscript as well as he was able by the lurid light 
of the lantern. Yes, yes, it was all right : it told him with 
minute and unmistakable detail the exact spot in the valley 

269 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

of the Bovey where John Cann's treasure lay securely hidden. 
Not at John Cann's rocks on the hilltop, as the local legend 
untruly affirmed — John Cann had not been such an unguarded 
fool as to whisper to the idle gossips of Bovey the spot where 
he had really buried his precious doubloons — but down in 
the valley by a bend of the river, at a point that Cecil Mit- 
ford had known well from his childhood upward. Hurrah ! 
hurrah ! the secret was unearthed at last, and he had nothing 
more to do than to go home to England and proceed to dig 
up John Cann's treasure ! 

So he cautiously replaced the loose earth on the side of 
the grave, and walked back, this time bold and erect, with 
his dark lantern openly displayed (for it mattered little now 
who watched or followed him), to dead Charles Barclay's 
lonely bungalow. The black servants were crooning and 
wailing over their master's body, and nobody took much 
notice of the white visitor. If they had, Cecil Mitford would 
have cared but little, so long as he carried John Cann's last 
dying directions safely folded in his leather pocket-book. 

Next day, Cecil Mitford stood once more as a chief 
mourner beside the grave he had sat in that night so 
strangely by himself: and before the week was over, he 
had taken his passage for England in the Royal Mail Steamer 
Tagiis, and was leaving the cocoa-nut groves of Port Royal 
well behind him on the port side. Before him lay the open 
sea, and beyond it, England, Ethel, and John Cann's 
treasure. 



VII 

It had been a long job after all to arrange fully the needful 

preliminaries for the actual search after John ('ann's buried 

doubloons. First of all, there was Ethel's interest to pay, 

and a horrid story for Cecil to concoct — all false, of course, 

270 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

worse luck to it — about how he had managed to invest her 
poor three hundred to the best advantage. Then there was 
another story to make good about three months' extra leave 
from the Colonial Office. Next came the question of buying 
the land where John Cann's treasure lay hidden, and this 
was really a matter of very exceptional and peculiar difficulty. 
The owner — pig-headed fellow ! — didn't want to sell, no 
matter how much he was offered, because the corner con- 
tained a clump of trees that made a specially pretty element 
in the view from his dining-room windows. His dining-room 
windows, forsooth ! What on earth could it matter, when 
John Cann's treasure was at stake, whether anything at all 
was visible or otherwise from his miserable dining-room 
windows .'' Cecil was positively appalled at the obstinacy 
and narrow-mindedness of the poor squireen, who could 
think of nothing at all in the whole world but his own 
ridiculous antiquated windows. However, in the end, by 
making his bid high enough, he was able to induce this 
obstructive old curmudgeon to part with his triangular little 
corner of land in the bend of the rivei*. Even so, there was 
the question of payment : absurd as it seemed, with all John 
Cann's money almost in his hands, Cecil was obliged to worry 
and bother and lie and intrigue for weeks together in order 
to get that paltry little sum in hard cash for the matter of 
payment. Still, he raised it in the end ; raised it by inducing 
Ethel to sell out the remainder of her poor small fortune, 
and cajoling Aunt Emily into putting her name to a bill of 
sale for her few worthless bits of old-fashioned furniture. 
At last, after many delays and vexatious troubles, Cecil 
found himself the actual possessor of the corner of land 
wherein lay buried John Cann's treasure. 

The very first day that Cecil Mitford could call that 
coveted piece of ground his own, he could not restrain his 
eagerness (though he knew it was imprudent in a land where 
the unjust law of treasure-trove prevails), but he must then 

271 



JOHN CANN S TREASURE 

and there begin covertly digging under the shadow of the 
three big willow trees in the bend of the river. He had 
eyed and measured the bearings so carefully already that he 
knew the very spot to a nail's-breadth where John Cann's 
treasure was actually hidden. He set to work digging with 
a little pick as confidently as if he had already seen the 
doubloons lying there in the strong box that he knew 
enclosed them. Four feet deep he dug^ as John Cann's 
instructions told him ; and then, true to the inch, his pick 
struck against a solid oaken box, well secured with clamps of 
iron. Cecil cleared all the dirt away from the top, carefully, 
not hurriedly, and tried with all his might to lift the box 
out, but all in vain. It was far too heavy, of course, for one 
man's arms to raise : all that weight of gold and silver must 
be ever so much more than a single pair of hands could 
possibly manage. He must try to open the lid alone, so as 
to take the gold out, a bit at a time, and carry it away with 
him now and again, as he was able, covering the place up 
carefully in between, for fear of the Treasury and the Lord 
of the Manor. How abominably unjust it seemed to him at 
that moment — the legal claim of those two indolent hostile 
powers ! to think that after he, Cecil Mitford, had borne the 
brunt of the labour in adventurously hunting up the whole 
trail of John Cann's secret, two idle irresponsible par- 
ticipators should come in at the end, if they could, to profit 
entirely by his ingenuity and his exertions ! 

At last, by a great effort, he forced the rusty lock open, 
and looked eagerly into the strong oak chest. How his 
heart beat with slow, deep throbs at that supreme moment, 
not with suspense, for he kyiew he should find the money, 
but with the final realisation of a great hope long deferred ! 
Yes, there it lay, in very truth, all before him — great shining 
coins of old Spanish gold — gold, gold, gold, arranged in long 
rows, one coin after another, over the whole surface of the 
broad oak box. He had found it, he had found it, he had 
272 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

really found it ! After so much toilsome hunting, after so 
much vain endeavour, after so many heart-breaking dis- 
appointments, John Cann's treasure in very truth lay open 
there actually before him ! 

For a few minutes, eager and frightened as he was, Cecil 
Mitford did not dare even to touch the precious pieces. In 
the greatness of his joy, in the fierce rush of his overpowering 
emotions, he had no time to think of mere base everyday 
gold and silver. It was the future and the ideal that he 
beheld, not the piled-up heaps of filthy lucre. Ethel was 
his, wealth was his, honour was his ! He would be a rich 
man and a great man now and henceforth for ever ! Oh, 
how he hugged himself in his heart on the wise successful 
fraud by which he had induced Ethel to advance him the 
few wretched hundreds he needed for his ever-memorable 
Jamaican journey ! How he praised to himself his own 
courage, and ingenuity, and determination, and inexhaustible 
patience ! How he laughed down that foolish conscience of 
his that would fain have dissuaded him from his master- 
stroke of genius. He deserved it all, he deserved it all ! 
Other men would have flinched before the risk and expense 
of the voyage to Jamaica, would have given up the scent for 
a fool's errand in the cemetery at Port Royal, would have 
shrunk from ransacking John Cann's grave at dead of night 
in the Cathedral precincts at Spanish Town, would have 
feared to buy the high-priced corner of land at Bovey Tracy 
on a pure imaginative speculation. But he, Cecil Mitford, had 
had the boldness and the cleverness to do it every bit, and 
now, wisdom was justified of all her children. He sat for 
five minutes in profound meditation on the edge of the little 
pit he had dug, gloating dreamily over the broad gold pieces, 
and inwardly admiring his own bravery and foresight and 
indomitable resolution. What a magnificent man he really 
was — a worthy successor of those great freebooting, buc- 
caneering, filibustering Devonians of the grand Elizabethan 
s 273 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

era ! To think that the worky-day modern world should 
ever have tried to doom him, Cecil Mitford, with his 
splendid enterprise and glorious potentialities, to a hundred 
and eighty a year and a routine clerkship at the Colonial 
Office! 

After a while, however, mere numerical cupidity began to 
get the better of this heroic mood, and Cecil Mitford turned 
somewhat languidly to the vulgar task of counting the rows of 
doubloons. He counted up the foremost row carefully, and 
then for the first time perceived, to his intense surprise, that 
the row behind was not gold, but mere silver Mexican pistoles. 
He rubbed his eyes and looked again, but the fact was un- 
mistakable ; there was only one row of yellow gold in the top 
layer, and all the rest was merely bright and glittering 
silver. Strange that John Cann should have put coins of 
such small value near the top of his box : the rest of the 
gold must certainly be in successive layers down further. 
He lifted up the big gold doubloons in the first row, and 
then, to his blank horror and amazement, came to — not more 
gold, not more silver, but — but — but — ay, incredible as it 
seemed, appalling, horrifying — a wooden bottom ! 

Had John Cann, in his care and anxiety, put a layer of solid 
oak between each layer of gold and silver ? Hardly that, the 
oak was too thick. In a moment Cecil Mitford had taken 
out all the coins of the first tier, and laid bare the oaken 
bottom. A few blows of the pick loosened the earth 
around, and then, oh horror, oh ghastly disappointment, oh 
unspeakable heart-sickening revelation, the whole box came 
out entire. It was only two inches deep altogether, including 
the cover — it was, in fact, a mere shallow tray or saucer, 
something like the sort of thin wooden boxes in which sets 
of dessert-knives or fish-knives are usually sold for wedding 
presents ! 

For the space of three seconds Cecil Mitford could not 
believe his eyes, and then, with a sudden flash of awful 
274 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

vividness^ the whole terrible truth flashed at once across his 
staggering brain. He had found John Cann's treasure in- 
deed — the John Cann's treasure of base actual reality ; but 
the John Cann's treasure of his fervid imagination, the John 
Cann's treasure he had dreamt of from his boyhood upward, 
the John Cann's treasure he had risked all to find and to win, 
did not exist, could not exist, and never had existed at all 
anywhere ! It was all a horrible, incredible, unthinkable 
delusion ! The hideous fictions he had told would every 
one be now discovered ; Ethel would be ruined ; Aunt Emily 
would be ruined ; and they would both know him, not only 
for a fool, a dreamer, and a visionary, but also for a gambler, 
a thief, and a liar. 

In his black despair he jumped down into the shallow 
hole once more, and began a second time to count slowly 
over the accursed dollars. The whole miserable sum — the 
untold wealth of John Cann's treasure — would amount 
altogether to about two hundred and twenty pounds of 
modern sterling English money. Cecil Mitford tore his hair 
as he counted it in impotent self-punishment ; two hundred 
and twenty pounds, and he had expected at least as many 
thousands ! He saw it all in a moment. His wild fancy 
had mistaken the poor outcast hunted-down pirate for a sort 
of ideal criminal millionaire ; he had erected the ignorant, 
persecuted John Cann of real life, who fled from the king's 
justice to a nest of chartered outlaws in Jamaica, into a 
great successful naval commander, like the Drake or 
Hawkins of actual history. The whole truth about the 
wretched solitary old robber burst in upon him now with 
startling vividness ; he saw him hugging his paltry two 
hundred pounds to his miserly old bosom, crossing the sea 
with it stealthily from Jamaica, burying it secretly in a hole 
in the ground at Bovey, quarrelling about it with his peasant 
relations in England, as the poor will often quarrel about 
mere trifles of money, and dying at last with the secret of 

275 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

that wretched sum hidden in the snuff-box that he clutched 
with fierce energy even in his lifeless skeleton fingers. It 
was all clear, horribly, irretrievably, unmistakably clear to 
him now ; and the John Cann that he had once followed 
through so many chances and changes had faded away at 
once into absolute nothingness, now and for ever ! 

If Cecil Mitford had known a little less about John Cann's 
life and exploits, he might still perhaps have buoyed himself 
up with the vain hope that all the treasure was not yet 
unearthed — that there were more boxes still buried in the 
ground, more doubloons still hidden further down in the 
unexplored bosom of the little three-cornered field. But 
the words of John Cann's own dying directions were too 
explicit and clear to admit of any such gloss or false inter- 
pretation. ' In a strong oaken chest, bound round with 
iron, and buried at four feet of depth in the south-western 
angle of the Home Croft, at Bovey,' said the document, 
plainly : there was no possibility of making two out of it in 
any way. Indeed, in that single minute, Cecil Mitford's 
mind had undergone a total revolution, and he saw the John 
Cann myth for the first time in his life now in its true 
colours. The bubble had burst, the halo had vanished, the 
phantom had faded away, and the miserable squalid miserly 
reality stood before him with all its vulgar nakedness in 
their place. The whole panorama of John Cann's life, as 
he knew it intimately in all its details, passed before his 
mind's-eye like a vivid picture, no longer in the brilliant 
hues of boyish romance, but in the dingy sordid tones of 
sober fact. He had given up all that was worth having in 
this world for the sake of a poor gipsy pirate's penny-saving 
hoard. 

A weaker man would have swallowed the disappointment 

or kept the delusion still to his dying day. Cecil Mitford 

was made of stronger mould. The ideal John Cann's 

treasure had taken possession of him, body and soul ; and 

276 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

now that John Cann's treasure had faded into utter nonentity 
— a paltry two hundred pounds — the whole solid earth had 
failed beneath his feet, and nothing was left before him but 
a mighty blank. A mighty blank. Blank, blank, blank. 
Cecil Mitford sat there on the edge of the pit, with his legs 
dangling over into the hollow where John Cann's treasure 
had never been, gazing blankly out into a blank sky, with 
staring blank eyeballs that looked straight ahead into infinite 
space and saw utterly nothing. 

How long he sat there no one knows ; but late at night, 
when the people at the Red Lion began to miss their guest, 
and turned out in a body to hunt for him in the corner field, 
they found him sitting still on the edge of the pit he had 
dug for the grave of his own hopes, and gazing still with 
listless eyes into blank vacancy. A box of loose coin lay 
idly scattered on the ground beside him. The poor gentle- 
man had been struck crazy, they whispered to one another ; 
and so indeed he had : not raving mad with acute insanity, 
but blankly, hopelessly, and helplessly imbecile. With the 
loss of John Cann's treasure the whole universe had faded 
out for him into abject nihilism. They carried him home 
to the inn between them on their arms, and put him to bed 
carefully in the old bedroom, as one might put a new-born 
baby. 

The Lord of the Manor, when he came to hear the whole 
pitiful story, would have nothing to do with the wretched 
doubloons; the curse of blood was upon them, he said, and 
worse than that ; so the Treasury, which has no sentiments 
and no conscience, came in at the end for what little there 
was of John Cann's unholy treasure. 



277 



JOHN CANN S TREASURE 



VIII 

In the County Pauper Lunatic Asylum for Devon there 
was one quiet impassive patient, who was always pointed out 
to horror-loving visitors, because he had once been a gentle- 
man, and had a strange romance hanging to him still, even 
in that dreary refuge of the destitute insane. The lady 
whom he had loved and robbed — all for her own good — had 
followed him down from London to Devonshire; and she 
and her aunt kept a small school, after some struggling 
fashion, in the town close by, where many kind-hearted 
squires of the neighbourhood sent their little girls, while 
they were still very little, for the sake of charity, and for 
pity of the sad, sad story. One day a week there was a 
whole holiday — Wednesday it was — for that was visiting- 
day at the County Asylum ; and then Ethel Sutherland, 
dressed in deep mourning, walked round with her aunt to 
the gloomy gateway at ten o'clock, and sat as long as she 
was allowed with the faded image of Cecil Mitford, holding 
his listless hand clasped hard in her pale white fingers, and 
looking with sad, eager anxious eyes for any gleam of passing 
recognition in his. Alas ! the gleam never came (perhaps it 
was better so) ; Cecil Mitford looked always straight before 
him at the blank whitewashed walls, and saw nothing, heard 
nothing, thought of nothing, from week's end to week's 
end. 

Ethel had forgiven him all ; what will not a loving woman 
forgive .'' Nay, more, had found excuses and palliations for 
him which quite glossed over his crime and his folly. He 
must have been losing his reason long before he ever went 
to Jamaica, she said ; for in his right mind he would never 
have tried to deceive her or himself in the way he had done. 
278 



JOHN CANN'S TREASURE 

Did he not fancy he was sent out by the Colonial Office, 
when he had really gone without leave or mission ? And 
did he not persuade her to give up her money to him for 
investment, and after all never invest it ? What greater 
proofs of insanity could you have than those ? And then that 
dreadful fever at Spanish Town, and the shock of losing his 
kind entertainer, worn out with nursing him, had quite com- 
pleted the downfall of his reason. So Ethel Sutherland, 
in her pure beautiful woman's soul, went on believing, as 
steadfastly as ever, in the faith and the goodness of that 
Cecil Mitford that had never been. His ideal had faded out 
before the first touch of disillusioning fact ; hers persisted 
still, in spite of all the rudest assaults that the plainest facts 
could make upon it. Thank Heaven for that wonderful 
idealising power of a good woman, which enables her to 
walk unsullied through this sordid world, unknowing and 
unseeing. 

At last one night, one terrible windy night in December, 
Ethel Sutherland was wakened from her sleep in the quiet 
little schoolhouse by a fearful glare falling fiercely upon her 
bedroom window. She jumped up hastily and rushed to the 
little casement to look out towards the place whence the 
glare came. One thought alone rose instinctively in her 
white little mind — Could it be at Cecil's Asylum? Oh^ 
horror, yes ; the whole building was in flames, and if Cecil 
were taken — even poor mad imbecile Cecil — what, what on 
earth would then be left her ? 

Huddling on a few things hastily, anyhow, Ethel rushed 
out wildly into the street, and ran with incredible speed 
where all the crowd of the town was running together, 
towards the blazing Asylum. The mob knew her at once, 
and recognised her sad claim ; they made a little lane down 
the surging mass for her to pass through, till she stood be- 
side the very firemen at the base of the gateway. It was an 
awful sight — poor mad wretches raving and imploring at the 

279 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

windows, while the firemen pHed their hose and brought 
their escapes to bear as best they were able on one menaced 
tier after another. But Ethel saw or heard nothing, save in 
one third-floor window of the right wing, where Cecil Mit- 
ford stood, no longer speechless and imbecile, but calling 
loudly for help, and flinging his eager arms wildly about him. 
The shock had brought him back his reason, for the moment 
at least : oh, thank God, thank God, he saw her, he saw her! 

With a sudden wild cry Ethel burst from the firemen who 
tried to hold her back, leaped into the burning building and 
tore up the blazing stairs, blinded and scorched, but by some 
miracle not quite suffocated, till she reached the stone land- 
ing on the third story. Turning along the well-known 
corridor, now filled with black wreaths of stifling smoke, she 
reached at last Cecil's ward, and flung herself madly, wildly 
into his circling arms. For a moment they both forgot the 
awful death that girt them round on every side, and Cecil, 
rising one second superior to himself, cried only, ' Ethel, 
Ethel, Ethel, I love you ; forgive me ! ' Ethel pressed his 
hand in hers gently, and answered in an agony of joy, ' There 
is nothing to forgive, Cecil ; I can die happy now, now that 
I have once more heard you say you love me, you love me.' 

Hand in hand they turned back towards the blazing stair- 
case, and reached the window at the end where the firemen 
were now bringing their escape-ladder to bear on the third 
story. The men below beckoned them to come near and 
climb out on to the ladder, but just at that moment some- 
thing behind seemed incomprehensibly to fascinate and delay 
Cecil, so that he would not move a step nearer, though Ethel 
led him on with all her might. She looked back to see what 
could be the reason, and beheld the floor behind them rent 
by the flames, and a great gap spreading downward to the 
treasurer's room. On the tiled floor a few dozen pence and 
shillings and other coins lay, white with heat, among the 
glowing rubbish ; and the whole mass, glittering like gold in 
280 



JOHN CANNES TREASURE 

the fierce glare, seemed some fiery cave filled to the brim 
with fabulous wealth. Cecil's eye was riveted upon the 
yawning gap, and the corners of his mouth twitched horribly 
as he gazed with intense interest upon the red cinders and 
white-hot coin beneath him. Instinctively Ethel felt at once 
that all was lost, and that the old mania was once more upon 
him. Clasping her arm tight round his waist, while the 
firemen below shouted to her to leave him and come down 
as she valued her life, she made one desperate effort to drag 
him by main force to the head of the ladder. But Cecil, 
strong man that he was, threw her weak little arm impetu- 
ously away, as he might have thrown a two-year-old baby's, 
and cried to her in a voice trembling with excitement, ' See, 
see, Ethel, at last, at last; there it is, there it is in good 
earnest. John Cann's Treasure ! ' 

Ethel seized his arm imploringly once more. ' This Avay, 
darling,' she cried, in a voice choked by sobs and half stifled 
with the smoke. 'This way to the ladder.' 

But Cecil broke from her fiercely, with a wild light in his 
big blue eyes, and shouting aloud, ' The treasure, the trea- 
sure ! ' leaped with awful energy into the very centre of the 
seething fiery abyss. Ethel fell, fainting with terror and 
choked by the flames, on to the burning floor of the third 
story. The firemen, watching from below, declared next 
day that that crazy madman must have died stifled before he 
touched the heap of white-hot ruins in the central shell, and 
the poor lady was insensible or dead with asphyxia full ten 
minuted before the flames swept past the spot where her 
lifeless body was lying immovable. 



281 



XI 
IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 



'TwAs at supper at Charlie Powell's ; every one there 
admitted Charlie was in splendid form. His audacity 
broke the record. He romanced away with even more 
than his usual brilliant recklessness. Truth and fiction 
blended well in his animated account of his day's adven- 
tures. He had lunched that morning with the newly- 
appointed editor of a high-class journal for the home circle 
— circulation exceeding half a million, — and had returned 
all agog with the glorious prospect of untold wealth opening 
fresh before him. So he discounted his success by inviting 
a dozen friends to champagne and lobster-salad at his rooms 
in St. James's, and held forth to them, after his wont, in a 
rambling monologue. 

' When I got to the house,' he said airily, poising a 
champagne-glass halfway up in his hand, ' with the modest 
expectation of a chop and a pint of porter in the domestic 
ring — imagine my surprise at finding myself forthwith 
standing before the gates of an Oriental palace — small, 
undeniably small, a bijou in its way, but still, without doubt, 
a veritable palace. I touched the electric bell. Hi, presto ! 
at my touch the door flew open as if by magic, and disclosed 
— a Circassian slave, in a becoming costume a la Liberty in 
Regent Street, and smiling like the advertisement of a 

patent dentifrice ! I gasped out ' 

285 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

' But how did ye know she was a Circassian ? ' Paddy 
O'Connor inquired, interrupting him brusquely. (His 
name was really Francis Xavier O'Connor, but they 
called him 'Paddy' for short, just to mark his Celtic 
origin.) 

Charlie Powell smiled a contemptuously condescending 
smile. He was then on the boom, as chief literary lion. 
' How do I know ye 're an Oirishman, Paddy ? ' he answered, 
hardly heeding the interruption. ' By her accent, my dear 
boy ; her pure, unadulterated Circassian accent ! '•' Is Mr. 
Morrison at home ? " I gasped out to the Vision of Beauty. 
The Vision of Beauty smiled and nodded — her English 
being chiefly confined to smiles, with a Circassian flavour ; 
and led me on by degrees into the great man's presence. 
I mounted a stair, with a stained-glass window all yellows 
and browns, very fine and Burne-Jonesey ; I passed through 
a drawing-room in the Stamboul style — couches, rugs, and 
draperies ; and after various corridors — Byzantine, Persian, 
Moorish — I reached at last a sort of arcaded alcove at the 
further end, where two men lay reclining on an Eastern 
divan — one, a fez on his head, pulling hard at a chibouque ; 
the other, bare-headed, burbling smoke through a hookah. 
The bare-headed oiae rose : " Mr. Powell," says he, waving 
his hand to present me, " My friend, Macpherson Pasha ! " 
I bowed, and looked unconcerned. I wanted them to think 
I 'd lived all my life hobnobbing with Pashas. Well, 
we talked for a while about the weather and the crops, 
and the murder at Mile End, and the state of Islam ; 
when, presently, of a sudden, Morrison claps his hands 
— so — and another Circassian slave, still more beautiful, 
enters. 

'"Lunch, houri," says Morrison. 

'"The effendi is served," says the Circassian. 

' And down we went to the dining-room. Bombay black- 
wood, every inch of it, inlaid with ivory. Venetian glass on 
286 



IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

the table; solid silver on the sideboard. Only us three, if 
you please, to lunch ; but everything as spick and span as if 
the Prince was of the company. The three Circassian 

slaves, in Liberty caps, stood behind our chairs one 

goddess apiece — and looked after us royally. Chops and 
porter, indeed ! It was a banquet for a poet ; Ivan Greet 
should have been there ; he 'd have mugged up an ode about 
it. Clear turtle and Chablis — the very best brand; then 
smelts and sweetbreads ; next lamb and mint sauce ; ortolans 
on toast ; ice-pudding ; fresh strawberries. A guinea each, 
strawberries, I give you my word, just now at Covent 
Garden. Oh, mamma ! what a lunch, boys ! The Hebes 
poured champagne from a golden flagon ; that is to say, at 
any rate ' — for Paddy's eye was upon him — ' the neck of the 
bottle was wrapped in gilt tinfoil. And all the time 
Morrison talked — great guns, how he talked! I never 
heard anything in my life to equal it. The man's been 
everywhere, from Peru to Siberia. The man 's been every- 
thing, from a cowboy to a communard. My hair stood on 
end with half the things he said to me ; and I haven't got 
hair so easily raised as some people's. Was I prepared to 
sell my soul for Saxon gold at the magnificent rate of five 
guineas a column.? Was I prepared to jump out of my 
skin ! I choked with delight. Hadn't I sold it all along 
to the enemies of Wales for a miserable pittance of thirty 
shillings } What did he want me to do .=■ Why, contribute 
third leaders — you know the kind of thing — tootles on the 
penny-trumpet about irrelevant items of non-political news 
— the wit and humour of the fair, best domestic style, 
informed throughout with wide general culture. An allu- 
sion to Aristophanes; a passing hint at Rabelais; what 
Lucian would have said to his friends on this theme ; how 
the row at the School Board would have affected Sam 
Johnson. 

' " But you must remember, Mr. Powell," says Morrison, 

287 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

with an unctuous smile, " the gx-eater part of our i-eaders 
are — well, not to put it too fine — country squires and con- 
servative Dissenters. Your articles mustn't hurt their 
feelings or prejudices. Go warily, warily ! You must stick 
to the general policy of the paper, and be tenderly respect- 
ful to John Wesley's memory." 

' " Sir," said I, smacking his hand, " for five guineas 
a column I 'd be tenderly respectful to King Ahab himself, 
if you cared to insist upon it. You may count on my 
writing whatever rubbish you desire for the nursery 
mind." And I passed from his dining-room into the en- 
chanted alcove. 

' But before I left, my dear Ivan, I 'd heard such things 
as I never heard before, and been promised such pay as 
seemed to me this morning beyond the dreams of avarice. 
And oh, what a character ! " When I was a slave at 
Khartoum," the man said ; or " When I was a schoolmaster 
in Texas " ; " When I lived as a student up five floors at 
Heidelberg" ; or " When I ran away with Felix Pyat from 
the Versaillais " ; till I began to think 'twas the Wandering 
Jew himself come to life again in Knightsbridge. At last, 
after coffee and cigarettes on a Cairo tray — with remini- 
scences of Paraguay — I emerged on the street, and saw 
erect before my eyes a great round Colosseum. I seemed 
somehow to recognise it. " This is not Bagdad, then," I 
said to myself, rubbing my eyes very hard — for I thought I 
must have been wafted some centuries off, on an enchanted 
carpet. Then I looked once more. Yes, sure enough, it 
was the Albert Hall. And there was the Memorial with its 
golden image. I rubbed my eyes a second time, and hailed 
a hansom — for there were hansoms about, and policemen, 
and babies. "Thank Heaven!" I cried aloud; "after all, 
this is London ! " ' 



288 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 



II 

'It's a most regrettable incident!' Ivan Greet said 
solemnly. 

The rest turned and looked. Ivan Greet was their poet. 
He was tall and thin, with strange, wistful eyes, somewhat 
furtive in tone, and a keen, sharp face, and lank, long hair 
that fell loose on his shoulders. It was a point with this 
hair to be always abnormally damp and moist, with a sort 
of unnatural and impalpable moisture. The little coterie 
of authors and artists to which Ivan belonged regarded him 
indeed with no small respect, as a great man 7nanquc. 
Nature, they knew, had designed him for an immortal bard ; 
circumstances had turned him into an occasional journalist. 
But to them, he represented Art for Art's sake. So when 
Ivan said solemnly, ' It 's a most regrettable incident,' every 
eye in the room turned and stared at him in concert. 

'Why so, me dear fellow.''' Paddy O'Connor asked, open- 
eyed. ' I call it magnificent ! ' 

But Ivan Greet answered warmly, ' Because it '11 take him 
still further away than ever from his work in life, which you 
and I know is science and philosophy.' 

' And yer own grand epic .'' ' Paddy suggested, with a 
smart smile, pouncing down like a hawk upon him. 

Ivan Greet coloured — positively coloured — ' blushed 
visibly to the naked eye,' as Paddy observed afterwards, 
in recounting the incident to his familiar friend at the 
United Bohemians. But he stood his ground like a man 
and a poet for all that. ' My own epic isn't written yet — 
probably never will be written,' he answered, after a pause, 
with quiet firmness. ' I give up to the Daily Telephone what 
was meant for mankind : I acknowledge it freely. Still, 
I 'm sorry when I see any other good man — and most of all 
T 289 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

Charlie Powell — compelled to lose his own soul the same 
way I myself have done.' He paused and looked round. 
' Boys/ he said, addressing the table, ' in these days, if any 
man has anything out of the common to say, he must be 
rich and his own master, or he won't be allowed to say it. 
If he 's poor, he has first to earn his living ; and to earn his 
living he 's compelled to do work he doesn't want to do — 
work that stifles the things which burn and struggle for 
utterance within him. The editor is the man who rules 
the situation ; and what the editor asks is good paying 
matter. Good paying matter Charlie can give him, of 
course : Charlie can give him, thank Heaven, whatever he 
asks for. But this hack-work will draw him further and 
further afield from the work in life for which God made 
him — the philosophical reconstitution of the world and the 
universe for the twentieth century. And that 's why I say 
— and I say it again — a most regrettable incident ! ' 

Charlie Powell set down his glass of champagne untasted. 
Ivan Greet was regai'ded by his narrow little circle of 
journalistic associates as something of a prophet ; and his 
words, solemnly uttered, sobered Charlie for a while — 
recalled him with a bound to his better personality. 
' Ivan 's right,' he said slowly, nodding his head once or 
twice. ' He 's right, as usual. We 're all of us wasting on 
weekly middles the talents God gave us for a higher 
purpose. We know it, every man Jack of us. But 
Heaven help us, I say, Ivan : for how can we help our- 
selves ? We live by bread. We must eat bread first, or 
how can we write epics or philosophies afterwards } This 
age demands of us the sacrifice of our individualities. It 
will be better some day, perhaps, when Bellamy and 
William Morris have remodelled the world : life will be 
simpler, and bare living easier. For the present I resign 
myself to inevitable fate. I '11 write middles for Morrison, 
and eat and drink ; and I '11 wait for my philosophy till I m 
290 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

rich and bald, and have leisure to write it in my own hired 
house in Fitzjohn's Avenue.' 

Ivan Greet gazed across at him with a serious look in 
those furtive eyes. ' That 's all very well for you ! ' he 
cried half angrily, in a sudden flaring forth of long- 
suppressed emotion. ' Philosophy can wait till a man 's 
rich and bald; it gains by waiting; it's the better for 
maturity. But poetry ! — ah, there, I hate to talk about it ! 
Who can begin to set about his divine work when he 's 
turned sixty and worn out by forty years of uncongenial 
leaders .'' The thing 's preposterous. A poet must write 
when he 's young and passionate, or not at all. He may go 
on writing in age, of course, as his blood grows cool, if he 's 
kept up the habit, like Wordsworth and Tennyson : he may 
even let it lie by or rust for a time, like Milton or Goethe, 
and resume it later, if he throws himself meanwhile, heart 
and soul, into some other occupation that carries him away 
with it resistlessly for the moment ; but spend half his life 
in degrading his style and debasing his genius by working 
for hire at the beck and call of an editor — lose his birthright 
like that, and then turn at last with the bald head you speak 
about to pour forth at sixty his frigid lyrics — I tell you, 
Charlie, the thing 's impossible ! The poet must work, the 
poet must acquire his habits of thought and style and 
expression in the volcanic period ; if he waits till he 's 
crusted over and encysted with age, he may hammer out 
I'hetoric, he may string fresh rhymes, but he '11 never, never 
give us one line of real poetry.' 



Ill 



He spoke with fiery zeal. It was seldom Ivan Greet had 
an outbreak like this. For the most part he acquiesced, like 
all the rest of us, in the supreme dictatorship of Supply and 

291 



IVAN GREErS MASTERPIECE 

Demand — those economic gods of the modern book-market. 
But now and agam rebellious fits came over him, and he 
kicked against the pricks with all the angry impetuosity of 
a born poet. For the rest of that night he sat moody and 
silent. Black bile consumed him. Paddy O'Connor rose 
and sang with his usual verve the last new Irish comic song 
from the music-halls ; Fred Mowbray, from Jamaica, told 
good stories in negro dialect with his wonted exuberance ; 
Charlie Powell bubbled over with spirits and epigrams. 
But Ivan Greet sat a little apart, with scarcely a smile on his 
wistful face ; he sat and ruminated. He was angry at heart ; 
the poetic temperament is a temperament of moods ; and 
each mood, once roused, takes possession for the time of a 
man's whole nature. So Ivan remained angry, with a re- 
morseful anger ; he was ashamed of his own life, ashamed 
of falling short of his own cherished ideals. Yet how could 
he help himself.'' Man, as he truly said, must live by bread, 
though not by bread alone; a sufficiency of food is still a 
condition-precedent of artistic creation. You can't earn 
your livelihood nowadays by stringing together rhymes, 
string you never so deftly ; and Ivan had nothing but his 
pen to earn it with. He had prostituted that pen to write 
harmless little essays on social subjects in the monthly 
magazines ; his better nature recoiled with horror to-night 
from the thought of that hateful, that wicked profanation. 

'Twas a noisy party. They broke up late. Fred Mow- 
bray walked home along Piccadilly with Ivan. It was one 
of those dull, wet nights in the streets of London when 
everything glistens wiih a dreary reflection from the pallid 
gas-lamps. Pah ! what weather ! To Fred, West-Indian 
born, it was utterly hideous. He talked as they went 
along of the warmth, the sunshine, the breadth of space, 
the ease of living, in his native islands. What a contrast 
between those sloppy pavements, thick with yellow mud, 
and the sun-smitten hillsides, clad in changeless green, 
292 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

where the happy nigger lay basking and sprawling all day 
long on his back in the midst of his plantain-patches, 
while the bountiful sun did the hard work of life for him 
by ripening his coconuts and mellowing his bananas, unasked 
and untended ! 

Ivan Greet drank it in. As Fred spoke, an idea rose up 
vague and formless in the poet's soul. There were countries, 
then, where earth was still kindly, and human wants still 
few ; where Nature, as in the Georgics, supplied even now 
the primary needs of man's life unbidden ! Surely, in such 
a land as that a poet yet might live ; tilling his own small 
plot and eating the fruits of his own slight toil, he might 
find leisure to mould without let or hindrance the thought 
that was in him into exquisite melody. The bare fancy 
fired him. A year or two spent in those delicious climates 
might enable a man to turn out what was truest and best 
in him. He might drink of the spring and be fed from the 
plantain-patch, like those wiser negroes, but he would carry 
with him still all the inherited wealth of European culture, 
and speak like a Greek god under the tropic shade of 
Jamaican cotton-ti'ees. 

To the average ratepayer such a scheme would appear the 
veriest midsummer madness. But Ivan Greet was a poet. 
Now, a poet is a man who acts on impulse. And to Ivan 
the impulse itself was absolutely sacred. He paused on 
the slippery pavement, and faced his companion suddenly. 
^ How much land does it take there for a man to live upon ? ' 
he asked, with hurried energy. 

Fred Mowbray reflected. ' Well, two acres at most, I 
should say, down in plantain and yam,' he answered, ' would 
support a family.' 

^ And you can buy it ? ' Ivan went on, with surprising 
eagerness. ' I mean, there 's lots to be had — it 's always in 
the market .'' ' 

' Lots to be had } Why, yes ! No difficulty there ! Half 

293 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

Jamaica 's for sale, on the mountains especially. The island's 
under-peopled ; our pop 's half a million ; it 'd hold quite 
three. Land goes for a mere song ; you can buy where you 
will, quite easily.' 

Ivan Greet's lip trembled with intense excitement. A 
vision of freedom floated dimly before him. Palms, tree- 
ferns, bamboos, waving clumps of tropic foliage ; a hillside 
hut ; dusky faces, red handkerchiefs ; and leisure, leisure, 
leisure to do the work he liked in ! Oh soul, what a 
dream ! You shall say what you will there ! To Ivan 
that was religion — all the religion he had perhaps ; for his 
was, above all things, an artistic nature. 

' How much would it cost, do you think ? ' he inquired, all 
tremulous. 

And Fred answered airily, ' Well, I fancy not more than a 
pound or two an acre.' 

A pound or two an acre ! Just a column in the Globe. 
The gates of Paradise stood open before him ! 

They walked on a hundred yards or so again in silence. 
Ivan Greet was turning over in his seething soul a strange 
scheme to free himself from Egyptian bondage. At last he 
asked once more, ' How much would it cost me to go out by 
the steerage, if there is such a thing on the steamers to 
Jamaica ? ' 

Fred Mowbray paused a moment. ' Well, I should think,' 
he said at last, pursing his lips to look wise, ' you ought to 
do it for about a tenner.' 

Ivan's mind was made up. Those woi'ds decided him. 
While his mother lived he had felt bound to support her ; 
and the necessity for doing so had ' kept him straight,' his 
friends said — or, as he himself would have phrased it, had 
tied him firmly down to unwilling servitude. But now he 
had nobody on earth save himself to consult, for Ethel had 
married well, and Stephen, dull lad, was comfortably en- 
sconced in a City office. He went home all on fire with his 
294 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

new idea. That night he hardly slept ; coconuts waved 
their long leaves in the breeze before him ; dusky hands 
beckoned him with strange signs and enticements to come 
over to a land of sunlight and freedom. But he was prac- 
tical too ; he worked it all out in his head arithmetically. 
So much coming in from this or that magazine ; so much 
cash in hand ; so much per contra for petty debts at home ; 
so much for outfit, passage-money, purchase. With two 
acres of his own he could live like a lord on his yams and 
plantains. What sort of food-stuff, indeed, your yam might 
be he hadn't, to say the truth, the very faintest conception. 
But who cares for such detail? It was freedom he wanted, 
not the flesh-pots of Egypt. And freedom he would have 
to work out his own nature. 



IV 

There was commotion on the hillside at St. Thomas-in- 
the-Vale one brilliant blazing noontide a few weeks later. 
Clemmy burst upon the group that sat lounging on the 
ground outside the hut-door with most unwonted tidings. 
' You hear dem sell dat piece o' land nex' bit to Tammas ? ' 
she cried, all agog with excitement ; ' you hear dem sell 
it?' 

Old Rachel looked up, yawning. ' What de gal a-talk- 
ing about ? ' she answered testily, for old Rachel was tooth- 
less. ' Folk all know dat — him hear tell long ago. Sell 
dem two acre las' week, Peter say, to 'tranger down a' 
Kingston.' 

' Yes, an' de 'tranger come up,' Clemmy burst out, hardly 
able to contain herself at so astounding an incident, ' an' 
what you tink him is ? Him doan't nagur at all ! Him 
reel buckra gentleman ! ' 

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IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

A shrill whistle of surprise and subdued unbelief ran 
sharply round the little cluster of squatting negroes. ' Him 
buckra ? ' Peter Foddergill repeated to himself, half in- 
credulous. Peter was Clemmy's stepfather; for Cleramy 
was a brown girl, and old Rachel, her mother, was a full- 
blooded negress. Her paternity was lost in the dim past of 
the island. 

' Yes, him buckra,' Clemmy repeated in a very firm voice. 
' Him reel white buckra. Him come up to take de land, an' 
him gwine to lib dere.' 

' It doan't can true ! ' old Rachel cried, rousing herself. 
' It doan't can possible. Buckra gentleman doan't can 
come an' lib on two-acre plot alongside o' black nagur. 
Him gwine to sell it again ; dat what it is ; or else him 
gwine to gib it to some nagur leeady. White buckra 
doan't can lib all alone in St. Tammas.' 

But Clemmy was positive. ' No, no,' she cried, unmoved, 
shaking her comely brown head, with its crimson bandanna 
— for she was a pretty girl of her sort was Clemmy. ' Him 
gwine to lib dere. Him tell me so himself. Him gwine to 
build hut on it, an' plant it down in plantain. Him berry 
pretty gentleman, wit' long hair on him shoulder ; him hab 
eyes quick and sharp all same like weasel ; and when him 
smile, him look kinder nor anyting. But him say him come 
out from England for good becos him lub better to lib in 
Jamaica ; an' him gwine to build him hut here, and lib same 
like nagur.' 

In a moment the little cluster of negro hovels was all 
a-buzz with conjecture, and hubbub, and wonderment. 
Only the small black babies were left sprawling in the 
dust, with the small black pigs, beside their mothers' 
doors, so that you could hardly tell at a glance which 
was which, as they basked thei-e ; all the rest of the 
population, men, women, and children, with that trifling 
exception, made a general stampede with one accord for 
296 



IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

the plot next to Tammas's. A buckra come to live on the 
hillside in their midst ! A buckra going to build a little 
hut like their own ! A buckra going to cultivate a two- 
acre plot with yam and plantain ! They were aghast with 
surprise. It was wonderful, wonderful ! For Jamaica 
negroes don't keep abreast of the Movement, and they 
didn't yet know the ways of our latter-day prophets. 

As for Ivan Greet himself, he was fairly surprised in turn, 
as he stood there in his shirt-sleeves surveying his estate, 
at this sudden eruption of good-humoured barbarians. How 
they grinned and chattered ! What teeth ! what animation ! 
He had bought his two acres with the eye of faith at King- 
ston from their lawful proprietor, knowing nothing but 
their place on the plan set before him. That morning he 
had come over by train to Spanish Town, and tramped 
through the wondrous defile of the Bog Walk to Linstead, 
and asked his way thence by devious bridle-paths to his own 
new propei'ty on the hillside at St. Thomas. Conveyancing 
in Jamaica is but an artless art ; having acquired his plot by 
cash payment on the nail, Ivan was left to his own devices 
to identify and demarcate it. But Tammas's acre was 
marked on the map in conspicuous blue, and defined in real 
life by a most warlike boundary fence of prickly aloes ; 
while a dozen friendly negroes, all amazement at the sight, 
were ready to assist him at once in finding and measuring 
off the adjacent piece duly outlined in red on the duplicate 
plan he had got with his title-deed. 

It was a very nice plot, with a very fine view, in a very 
sweet site, on a very green hillside. But Ivan Greet, 
though young and strong with the wiry strength of the tall 
thin Cornishman, was weary and hot after a long morning's 
tramp under a tropical sun, and somewhat taken aback (as 
well he might be, indeed) at the strangeness and squalor of 
his new surroundings. He had pulled off his coat and laid 
it down upon the ground ; and now he sat on it in his shirt- 

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IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

sleeves for airiness and coolness. His heart sank for a 
moment as he gazed in dismay at the thick and spiky 
jungle of tropical scrub he would have to stub up before he 
could begin to plant his first yam or banana. That was a 
point, to say the truth, which had hardly entered into his 
calculations beforehand in England. He had figured to 
himself the pine-apples and plantains as a going concern ; 
the coconuts dropping down their ready-made crops ; the 
breadfruits eternally ripe at all times and seasons. It was 
a shock to him to find mother-earth so encumbered with an 
alien growth ; he must tickle her with a hoe ere she smiled 
with a harvest. Tickle her with a hoe indeed ! It was a 
cutlass he would need to hack down that matted mass of 
bristling underbrush. 

And how was he to live meanwhile? That was now the 
question. His money was all spent save a couple of pounds, 
for his estimates had erred, as is the way of estimates, 
rather on the side of deficiency than of excess ; and he was 
now left half stranded. But his doubts on this subject were 
quickly dispelled by the unexpected good-nature of his 
negro neighbours. As soon as those simple folk began to 
realise, by dint of question and answer, that the buckra 
meant actually to settle down in their midst, and live his 
life as they did, their kindliness and their offers of help 
knew no stint or moderation. The novelty of the idea 
fairly took them by storm. They chuckled and guffawed 
at it. A buckra from England — a gentleman in dress and 
accent and manner (for negroes know what's what, and can 
judge these things as well as you or I can) come of his own 
free-will to build a hut like their own, and live on the tilth 
of two acres of plantain ! It was splendid ! it was wonder- 
ful ! They entered into the spirit of the thing with true 
negro zest. ' Hey, massy, dat good now ! ' They would 
have done anything for Ivan — anything, that is to say, that 
involved no more than the average amount of negro exertion. 
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IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

As for the buckra himself, thus finding himself suddenly 
in the midst of new friends, all eager to hear of his plans 
and intentions, he came out in his best colours under stress 
of their welcome, and showed himself for what he was — a 
great-hearted gentleman. Sympathy always begets sym- 
pathy. Ivan accepted their proffered services with a kindly 
smile of recognition and gratitude, which to those good- 
natured folk seemed most condescending and generous in 
a real live white man. The news spread like wildfire. A 
buckra had come who loved the nagur. Before three hours 
were over every man in the hamlet had formed a high 
opinion of Mistah Greet's moral qualities. ' Doan't nebber 
see buckra like a' dis one afore,' old Peter murmured mu- 
singly to his cronies on the hillside. ' Him doan't got no 
pride, 'cep de pride ob a gentleman. Him talk to you and 
me same as if he tink us buckra like him. Hey, massy, 
massa, him good man fe' true ! Wonder what make him 
want to come lib at St. Tammas ? ' 



That very first day, before the green and gold of tropical 
sunset had faded into the solemn grey of twilight, Ivan 
Greet had decided on the site of his new hut, and begun 
to lay the foundations of a rude wooden shanty with the 
willing aid of his new black associates. Half the men of 
the community buckled to at the work, and all the women : 
for the women felt at once a novel glow of sympathy and 
unspoken compassion towards the unknown white man with 
the wistful eyes, who had come across the great sea to cast 
in his lot with theirs under the waving palm-trees. Now, 
your average negress can do as much hard labour as an 
English navvy ; and as the men found the timber and the 

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IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

posts for the corners without money or price, it came to 
pass that by evening that day a fair framework for a wattled 
hut of true African pattern stood already four-square to all 
the airts of heaven in the middle frontage of Ivan Greet's 
two acres. But it was roofless, of course, and its walls were 
still unbuilt : nothing existed so far but the bare square 
outline. It had yet to receive its wattled sides, and to be 
covered in on top with a picturesque waterproof thatch 
of fan-palm. Still, it was a noble hut as huts went on the 
hillside. Ivan and his fellow-workers stood and gazed at 
it that evening as they struck work for the day with pro- 
found admiration for their own cunning handicraft. 

And now came the question where Ivan was to sleep, and 
what to do for his supper. He had doubts in his own mind 
how all this could be managed. But Clemmy had none ; 
Clemmy was the only brown girl in the little community, 
and as such, of course, she claimed and received an acknow- 
ledged precedence. ' I shall have to sleep somewhere,' Ivan 
murmured, somewhat ruefully, gazing round him at the 
little cluster of half-barbarous cottages. ' But how — Heaven 
help me ! ' 

And Clemmy, nodding her head with a wise little smile, 
made answer naturally — 

' You gwine sleep at me fader, sah ; we got berry nice 
room. You doan't can go an' sleep wit' all dem common 
nagur dah.' 

'I'm not very i-ich, you know,' Ivan interposed hastily, 
with something very like a half-conscious blush — though, 
to be sure, he was red enough already with his unwonted 
exertion in that sweltering atmosphere. ' I 'm not very rich, 
but I 've a little still left, and I can afford to pay — well, 
whatever you think would be proper— for bed and board 
till I can get my own house up.' 

Clemmy waved him aside, morally speaking, with true 
negro dignity. 
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IVAN GREET S MASTERPIECE 

' We invite you, sah,' she said proudly, like a lady in the 
land (which she was at St. Thomas). ' When we ax gentle- 
man to stop, we doan't want nuffin paid for him board and 
lodgin'. We offer you de hospitality of our house an' home 
till your own house finish. Christen people doan't can do 
no less dan dat, I hope, for de homeless 'tranger.' 

She spoke with such grave politeness, such unconscious- 
ness of the underlying humour of the situation, that Ivan, 
with his quickly sympathetic poet's heart, raised his hat in 
return, as he answered with equal gravity, in the tone he 
might have used to a great lady in England — 

'It's awfully kind of you. I appreciate your goodness. 
I shall accept with pleasure the hospitality you offer me.' 

Old Peter grinned delight from ear to ear. It was a 
feather in his cap thus to entertain in his hut the nobihty 
and gentry. Though, to be sure, 'twas his right, as the 
acknowledged stepfather of the only undeniable brown girl 
in the whole community. For a brown girl, mark you, 
serves, to a certain extent, as a patent of gentility in the 
household she adorns ; she is a living proof of the fact that 
the family to which she belongs has been in the habit of 
mixing with white society. 

' You come along in, sah ! ' old Peter cried cheerily. 
'You tired wit' dat work. You doan't accustom' to it. 
White gentleman from England find de sun berry hot out 
heah in Jamaica. You take drop 'o rum, sah, or you like 
coconut water .'' ' 

Ivan modestly preferred the less spirituous liquor to the 
wine of the country ; so Clemmy, much flattered, and not a 
little fluttered, brought out a fresh green coconut, and 
sliced its top off before his eyes with one slash of the knife, 
and poured the limpid juice (which came forth clear as 
crystal, not thick and milky) into a bowl-shaped calabash, 
which she offered with a graceful bow for their visitor's 
acceptance. Ivan seated himself on the ground just outside 

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IVAN GREET S MASTERPIECE 

the hut as he saw the negroes do (for the air inside was hot, 
and close, and stifling), and took with real pleasure his first 
long pull at that delicious beverage. ' Why, it 's glorious ! ' 
he exclaimed, with unfeigned enthusiasm (for he was hot 
and thirsty), turning the empty calabash upside down before 
his entertainers' eyes, to let them see he fully appreciated 
their rustic attentions. ' Quite diff'erent from the coconuts 
one gets in London ! So fresh, and pure, and cool ! It 's 
almost worth coming out to Jamaica to taste it.' 

Clemray smiled her delight. Was ever buckra so affable ! 
Then she brought out a spoon — common pewter, or the like 
— which she wiped on her short skirt with unaffected sim- 
plicity, and handed it to him gravely. After that she gave 
him the coconut itself, with the soft jelly inside, which 
Ivan proceeded to scoop out, and eat before her eyes with 
evident relish. A semicircle of admiring negroes and 
negresses stood round and looked on — ' Hey, massy, massa ! 
him da eat de coconut ! ' — as though the sight of a white 
man taking jelly with a spoon were some startling novelty. 
Now, Ivan was modest, as becomes a poet ; but he managed 
to eat on, as little disconcerted by their attentions as pos- 
sible ; for he saw, if he was to live for some time among 
these people, how necessary it was from the very beginning 
to conciliate and please them. 

The coconut finished, Clemmy produced boiled yam and a 
little salt fish ; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish, and 
sat down by Ivan's side to their frugal supper. Being a 
brown girl, of course she could venture on such a liberty 
with an invited guest ; old Peter and her mother, as two 
pure-blooded blacks, sat a little apart from their new friend 
and their daughter, not to seem too presumptuous. And 
still, as Ivan ate, the admii-ing chorus ran round the semi- 
circle, ' Hey, massy, but dat fine ! hey, massy, but him no 
proud ! My king ! you see him eat ! You ebber know 
buckra do de same like a' dat afore } ' 
'302 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

That night — his first night in the Jamaican mountains — 
Ivan slept in old Peter's hut. It was narrow and close, but 
he opened the wooden window as wide as possible to let in 
the fresh air, and lay with his head to it ; he was young and 
strong, and had a fancy for roughing it. Next morning, 
early, he was up with his hosts, and afoot, for his work, 
while still the Southern sun hung low in the heavens. 
Fresh plantains and breadfruit, with a draught from a 
coconut, made up the bill of fare for his simple breakfast ; 
Ivan thought them not bad, though a trifle unsatisfying. 
That day, and several days after, he passed on his plot ; the 
men — great hulking blacks — gave him a helping hand by 
fits and starts at his job, though less eagerly than at first ; 
the women, more faithful to their waif from oversea, worked 
on with a will at the wattling and thatching. As for 
Clemmy, she took a personal interest in the building from 
beginning to end ; she regarded it with a vague sort of 
proprietary pride ; she spoke of it as ' de house ' in the very 
phrase we all of us use ourselves about the place we 're 
engaged in building or furnishing. 

At last, after a fortnight, the hut was finished. The 
entire hillside turned out with great joy to celebrate its 
inauguration. They lighted a bonfire of the brushwood and 
scrub they had cleared off the little blank platform in front of 
the door ; each man brought his own rum ; Ivan spent some 
five of his hoarded shillings in supplying refreshments for his 
assembled neighbours. Such a house-warming had never 
before been known in St. Thomas. Till late that evening 
little groups sat round the embers and baked yam and 
sweet potatoes in the hot wood-ashes. It was after midnight 
when the crowd, well drunken, began to disperse. Then 
they all went away, one by one — except Clemmy. 

Ivan looked at her inquiringly. She hung her head and 
hesitated. 

' You tink buckra gentleman can lib alone in house 

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IVAN GREET^S MASTERPIECE 

widout serbant ?' she asked, at last, in a very timid tone. 
' You doan't want housekeeper ? Buckra must hab some 
one to cook for him an' care for him. You no' want me to 
go. I tink I make good housekeeper.' 

' Of course,' Ivan answered, with a gleam of comprehen- 
sion, ' I never thought about that. Why, just the right 
thing. How very kind of you ! I can't cook for myself. 
I suppose I must have somebody to manage about boiling 
the yams and plantains.' 



VI 

So, for eight or ten months, Ivan Greet lived on in his 
wattled hut on that Jamaican hillside. He was dead to the 
world, and the woi-ld to him ; he neither wrote to nor heard 
from any friend in England. In the local planters' phrase, 
he simply 'went nigger.' What little luggage he possessed 
he had left at Spanish Town station while he built his hut ; 
as soon as he was fully installed in his own freehold house, 
and had got his supplies into working order, he and Clemmy 
started off for Spanish Town together, and brought it back, 
with much laughter, turn about, between them. Clemmy 
bore the big box on her head, whenever her turn came, as 
she was accustomed to carry a pail of water. It contained 
the small wardrobe he brought out from England, and, more 
important still, the pen, ink, and paper with which he was 
to write — his immortal masterpiece. 

Not that Ivan was in any hurry to begin his great task. 
Freedom and leisure were the keynotes of the situation. 
He would only set to work when the impulse came upon 
him. And just at first neither freedom nor leisure nor 
impulse was his. He had his ground to prepare, his yams 
and bananas to plant, his daily bread, or daily breadfruit, 
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IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

to procure, quite as truly as in England. Though, to be 
sure, Clemray's friends were most generous of their store, 
with that unconscious communism of all primitive societies. 
They offered what they had, and offered it freely. And 
Ivan, being a poet, accepted their gifts more frankly by far 
than most others could have done : he would repay them all, 
he said, with a grateful glance in those furtive eyes of his, 
when his crop was ready. The negroes in turn liked him all 
the better for that ; they were proud to be able to lend or 
give to the buckra from England. It raised them no little 
in their own esteem to find the white man so willing to chum 
with them. 

Five or six weeks passed away after Ivan had taken 
possession of his hut before he attempted to turn his hand to 
any literary work. Meanwhile, he was busily occupied in 
stubbing and planting, with occasional help from his negro 
allies, and the constant aid of those ever-faithful negresses. 
Even after he had settled down to a quiet life under his own 
vine and fig-tree, some time went past before the spirit 
moved him to undertake composition. To say the truth, 
this dolcefar niente world exactly suited him. Poets are lazy 
by nature — or, shall we put it, contemplative ? When Ivan in 
England first dreamt of this strange scheme, he looked 
forward to it as a noble stroke for faith and freedom, a 
sacrifice of his own personal worldly comfort to the work in 
life that was set before him. And so, indeed, it was, from 
the point of view of the fleshpots of Egypt. But fleshpots, 
after all, don't fill so large a place in human existence as 
civilisation fancies. When he found himself at last at ease 
on his hillside, he was surprised to discover how delightful, 
how poetical, how elevated is savagery. He sat all day long 
on the ground under the plantains, in shirt and trousers, 
with Clemmy by his side, or took a turn for exercise now 
and again in the cool of the evening through his sprouting 
yam plot. Palm-leaves whispered in the wind, mangoes 
u 305 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

glowed on the branches, pomegranates cracked and red- 
dened, humming-birds darted swift in invisible flight from 
flower to flower of the crimson hibiscus. What need to 
hurry in such a land as this, where all the world at once eats 
its lotus in harmony ? 

After a while, however, inspiration came upon him. It 
came unsought. It hunted him up and constrained him. 
He brought forth pen and paper to the door of the hut, 
and, sitting there in the broad shade (Clemmy still at his 
side), began from time to time to jot down a sentence, a 
thought, a phrase, a single word, exactly as they came to 
him. He didn't work hard. To work hard, indeed, or, in 
other words, to spur his Pegasus beyond its natural pace, 
was to Ivan nothing short of sheer worldly infidelity. 
Literature is the realisation of one's inmost personality in 
external form. He wanted freedom for that very purpose 
— that he might write the thing he would in the way that 
occurred to him. But slowly, none the less, a delicate picture 
grew up by degrees on the canvas before him. It wasn't a 
poem : the Muse didn't move him just so to verse, and he 
would be true to the core to her. It was a little romance, a 
vignette of tropical life, a Paul et Virginie picture of the folk 
he saw then and there on the hillside. And, indeed, the 
subject exactly suited him. A Bohemian in the grain, the 
easy, Bohemian life of these children of nature in their 
wattled huts appealed to him vividly. For a month or so 
now he had lived in their midst as one of themselves ; he 
had caught their very tone : he had learned to understand 
them, to know them, to sympathise with them. ' I '11 tell 
you what it is, sir,' a dissipated young planter had said to 
him at Kingston during the few days he spent there, ' people 
may say what they like about this blessed island ; but what 
I say's this, it's a jolly good place to live in, all the same, 
where rum is cheap and morals is lax ! ' Not so did the 
poet's eye envisage that black Arcadia. 
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IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

To Ivan it was an Eden of the Caribbean Seas ; he loved it 
for its simplicity, its naturalness, its utter absence of guile or 
wile or self-consciousness. 'Twas a land indeed where the 
Queen's writ ran not ; where the moral law bore but feeble 
sway ; where men and women, as free as the wind, lived and 
loved in their own capricious, ancestral fashion. Its ethics 
were certainly not the ethics of that hateful Mayfair from 
which he had fled in search of freedom. But life was real, 
if life was not earnest ; no sham was there, no veiled code of 
pretence ; what all the world did all the world frankly and 
openly acknowledged. Censors and censoriousness were 
alike unknown. Every man did that which was right in his 
own eyes, and no man hindered him. In such an environ- 
ment what space for idylls ! Never, since Theocritus, had 
poet's eye beheld anything like it. In the midst of this naif 
world he so thoroughly understood and so deeply appreciated 
Ivan Greet couldn't help but burst into song, or at least into 
romance of Arcadian pattern. Day by day he sat at the 
door of his hut, or strolled through the hamlet, with a nod 
and a smile for black Rose or black Robert, noting as he went 
their little words and ways, jotting mentally down on the 
tablets of his brain each striking phrase or tone or native 
pose or incident. So his idyll took shape of itself, he hardly 
knew how. It was he that held the pen ; it was Nature 
herself that dictated the plot, the dialogue, the episodes. 

In the evenings, whenever the fancy seized him, he would 
sit and read aloud what he had written during the day to his 
companion Clemmy. There, in the balmy glow of tropical 
dusk, with the sunset lighting up in pink or pui-ple the page 
as he read it, and the breeze rustling soft through the 
golden leaves of the star-apple, that simple tale of a simple 
life was uttered and heard in its native world, to the fullest 
advantage. But Clemmy ! As for Clemmy, she sat en- 
tranced ; was there ever so grand a man on earth as Ivan ? 
Never before had that brown girl known there was anything 

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IVAN GREETS IVIASTERPIECE 

other in the way of books than the Bible, the hymn-book, 
and the A B C in which she learned to read at the negro 
village-school down yonder at Linstead. And now, Ivan's 
tale awoke a new interest, a fresh delight within her. She 
understood it all the better in that it was a truthful tale of 
her own land and her own people. Time, place, surroundings, 
all were wholly familiar to her. It made her laugh a low 
laugh of surprise and pleasure to see how Ivan hit off with 
one striking phrase, one deft touch, one neat epithet, the 
people and things she had known and mixed with from her 
earliest childhood. In a word, it was Clemmy's first glimpse 
into literature. Now, Clemmy was a brown girl, and clever 
at that. European blood of no mean strain flowed in her 
veins — the blood of an able English naval family. Till Ivan 
came, indeed, she had lived the life and thought the thoughts 
of the people around her. But her new companion wakened 
higher chords, unsuspected by herself, in her inner nature. 
She revelled in his idyll. Oh, how sweet they were, those 
evenings on the hillside, when Ivan took her into his con- 
fidence, as it were, and poured forth into her ear that dainty 
tale that would have fallen so flat on the dull ears of her 
companions ! For Clemmy knew now she was better than 
the rest. She had always prided herself, of course, like 
every brown girl, on her ennobling mixture of European 
blood ; though she never knew quite why. This book re- 
vealed it to her. She realised now how inheritance had 
given her something that was wanting to the black girls, her 
playmates, in the village. She and Ivan were one in one- 
half their natures. 



VII 

Ten months passed away. Working by fits and starts, 
as the mood came upon him, Ivan Greet completed and 
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IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

repolished his masterpiece. It was but a little thing, yet 
he knew it was a masterpiece. Every word and line in it 
pleased and satisfied him. And when he was satisfied, he 
knew he had reckoned with his hardest critic. He had only 
to send it home to England now, and get it published. For 
the rest, he cared little. Let men read it or not, let them 
praise or blame, he had done a piece of work at last that 
was worthy of him. 

And Clemmy admired it more than words could fathom. 
Though she spoke her own uncouth dialect only, she could 
understand and appreciate all that Ivan had written^ — ^for 
Ivan had written it. Those ten months of daily intercourse 
with her poet in all moods had been to Clemmy a liberal 
education. Even her English improved, though that was 
a small matter; but her point of view widened and ex- 
panded unspeakably. It was the first time she had ever 
been brought into contact with a higher nature. And Ivan 
was so kind, so generous, so sympathetic. In one word, he 
treated her as he would treat a lady. Accustomed as she 
was only to the coarsely good-natured blacks of her hamlet, 
Clemmy found an English gentleman a wonderfully lovable 
and delightful companion. She knew, of course, he didn't 
love her — that would be asking too much ; but he was 
tender and gentle to her, as his poet's heart would have 
made him be to any other woman under like conditions. 
Sometimes the girls in the village would ask her in con- 
fidence, ' You tink him lub you, Clemmy .'' You tink de 
buckra lub you .'' ' 

And Clemmy, looking coy, and holding her head on one 
side, would answer, in the peculiar Jamaican sing-song, 
' Him mind on him book. Him doan't tink ob dem ting. 
Him mind too full. Him doan't tink to lub me.' 

But Clemmy loved him — deejily, devotedly. When a 
woman of the lower races loves a man of the higher, she 
clings to him with the fidelity of a dog to its master. 

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IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

Clemmy would have died for Ivan Greet; her whole life 
was now bound up in her Englishman. His masterpiece 
was to her something even more divine than to Ivan 
himself; she knew by heart whole pages and passages of it. 

In this delicious idyllic dream — a dream of young love 
satisfied (for Clemmy didn't ask such impossibilities from 
fate as that Ivan should love her as she loved him) — those 
happy months sped away all too fast, till Ivan's work was 
finished. On the morning of the day before he meant to 
take it in to the post at Spanish Town, and send it off, 
registered, to his friends in England, he walked out care- 
lessly barefooted — so negro-like had he become — among 
the deep dew on the grass in front of his shanty. Clemmy 
caught sight of him from the door, and shook her head 
gravely. 

'If you was my pickney, Ivan/ she said, with true 
African freedom, ' I tell you what I do : I smack you for 
dat. You gwine to take de fever ! ' 

Ivan laughed, and waved his hand. 

' Oh, no fear,' he cried lightly. * I 'm a Jamaican born 
by now. I 've taken to the life as a duck takes to the 
water. Besides, it 's quite warm, Clemmy. This dew won't 
hurt me.' 

Clemmy thought no more of it at the time, though she 
went in at once, and brought out his shoes and socks, 
and made him put them on with much womanly chiding. 
But that night, after supper, when she took his hand in 
hers, as was her wont of an evening, she drew back in 
surprise. 

' Why, Ivan,' she cried, all cold with terror, ' your hand 
too hot ! You done got de fever ! ' 

'Well, I don't feel quite the thing,' Ivan admitted 
grudgingly. ' I 've chills down my back and throbbing 
pain in my head. I think I '11 turn in and try some 
quinine, Clemmy.' 
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IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

Clemmy's heart sank at once. She put him to bed on 
the rough sack in the hut that served for a mattress, and 
sent Peter post haste down to Llnstead for the doctor. 
It was hours before he came ; he was dining with a friend 
at a ' penn ' on the mountains ; he wouldn't hurry himself 
for the ' white trash ' who had ' gone nigger ' on the hill- 
side. Meanwhile Clemmy sat watching, all inward horror, 
by Ivan's bedside. Long before the doctor arrived her 
Englishman was delirious. Tropical diseases run their 
course with appalling rapidity. By the time the doctor 
came he looked at the patient with a careless eye. All 
the world round about had heard of the white man who 
' lived with the niggers/ and despised him accordingly, 

' Yellow fever,' he said calmly, in a very cold voice. 
* He can't be moved, and he can't be nursed here. A 
pretty piggery this for a white man to die in ! ' 

Clemmy clasped her hands hard. 

' To die in ! ' she echoed aloud. ' To die in ! To die 
in!' 

'Well, he's not likely to live, is he.^' the doctor 
answered, with a sharp little laugh. ' But we '11 do what 
we can. He must be nursed day and night, and kept 
cool and well-aired, and have arrowroot and brandy every 
half-hour, awake or asleep — a couple of teaspoonfuls. I 
suppose you can get some other girl to help you sit up 
with him .'' ' 

To help her sit up with him ! Clemmy shuddered at 
the thought. She would have sat up with him herself 
every night for a century. What was sleep or rest to her 
when Ivan was in danger! For the next three days she 
never moved from his side except to make fresh arrowroot 
by the fire outside the hut, or to bring back a calabash of 
clear water from the rivulet. But how could nursing avail } 
The white man's constitution was already broken down by 
the hardships and bad food, nay, even by the very idleness 

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IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

of the past ten months ; and that hut was, indeed, no fit 
place to tend him in. The disease ran its course with all 
its fatal swiftness. From the very first night Ivan never 
for a moment recovered consciousness. On the second he 
was worse. On the third, with the suddenness of that 
treacherous climate, a tropical thunderstorm burst over 
them unawares. It chilled the air fast. Before it had 
rained itself out with peal upon peal and flash upon flash, 
in quick succession, Ivan Greet had turned on his side and 
died, and Clemmy sat alone in the hut with a corpse, and 
her unborn baby. 



VIII 



For a week or two the world was a blank to Clemmy. 
She knew only one thing — that Ivan had left her two 
sacred legacies. To print his book, to bring up his child 
— those were now the tasks in life set before her. From 
the very first moment she regarded the manuscript of his 
masterpiece with the profoundest reverence. Even before 
six stalwart negroes in their Sunday clothes came to bury 
her dead poet on the slope of the hillside under a murmur- 
ing clump of feathery bamboos, she had taken out that 
precious bundle of papers from Ivan's box in the corner, 
which served as sofa in the bare little shanty, and had 
wrapped it up tenderly in his big silk handkerchief, and 
replaced it with care, and locked up the box again, and 
put the key, tied by a string, round her neck on her own 
brown bosom. And when Ivan was gone for ever, and her 
tears were dry enough, she went to that box every night 
and morning, and unrolled the handkerchief reverently, and 
took out the unprinted book, and read it here and there — 
with pride and joy and sorrow — and folded it up again and 
replaced it in its ark till another evening. She knew 
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IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

nothing of books — till this one ; it had never even struck 
her they were the outcome of human brains and hands : 
but she knew it was her business in life now to publish it. 
Ivan Greet was gone, and, but for those two legacies he 
left behind him, she would have wished to die — she would 
have died, as negroes can, by merely wishing it. But now 
she couldn't. She must live for his child ; she must live 
for his idyll. It was a duty laid upon her. She knew 
not how — but somehow, some time, she must get that 
book printed. 

Six weeks later, her baby was born. As it lay on her 
lap, a dear, little, soft, round, creamy-brown girl — hardly 
brown at all, indeed, but a delicate quadroon, with deep 
chestnut hair and European features — she loved it in her 
heart for its father's sake chiefly. It was Ivan's child, made 
in Ivan's likeness. They christened it Vanna ; 'twas the 
nearest feminine form she could devise to Ivan. But even 
the baby — her baby, his baby — seemed hardly more alive 
to Clemmy herself than the manuscript that lay wrapped 
with scented herbs and leaves in the box in the corner. 
For that was all Ivan's, and it spoke to her still with his 
authentic voice — his own very words, his tone, his utterance. 
Many a time she took it out, as baby lay asleep, with tender 
eyelids closed, on the bed where Ivan had died (for sanitary 
science and knowledge of the germ theory haven't spread 
much as yet to St. Thomas-in-the-Vale) and read it aloud in 
her own sing-song way, and laughed and cried over it, and 
thought to herself, time and again, ' He wrote all that ! 
How wonderful ! How beautiful ! ' 

As soon as ever she was well enough, after baby came, 
Clemmy took that sacred manuscript, reverently folded 
still in its soft silk handkerchief, among its fragrant herbs, 
and with baby at her breast, trudged by herself along the 
dusty road, some twenty-five miles, all the way into King- 
ston, It was a long, hot walk, and she was weak and ill ; 

313 



IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

but Ivan's book must be printed, let it cost her what it 
might ; she would work herself to death, but she must 
manage to print it. She knew nothing of his family, his 
friends in England ; she knew nothing of publishing, or of 
the utter futility of getting the type set at a Kingston 
printing-office ; she only knew this — that Ivan wrote that 
book, and that, before he died, he meant to get it printed. 
After a weary trudge, buoyed only by vague hopes of 
fulfilling Ivan's last wish, she reached the baking streets 
of the grim white city. To her that squalid seaport seemed 
a very big and bustling town. Wandering there by herself, 
alone and afraid, down its unwonted thoroughfares, full of 
black men and white, all hurrying on their own errands, 
and all equally strange to her, she came at last to Hender- 
son's, the printer's. With a very timid air, she mustered up 
courage to enter the shop, and unfolded with trembling 
fingers her sacred burden. The printer stared hard at her. 
' Not your own, I suppose .'' ' he said, turning it over with a 
curious eye, like any common manuscript, and evidently 
amused at the bare idea of a book by an up-country brown 
girl. 

And Clemmy, half aghast that any man should touch that 
holy relic so lightly, made answer very low, ' No, not me 
own. Me fren's. Him dead, and I want to know how 
much you ax to print him.' 

The man ran his eye through it, and calculated roughly. 
'On paper like this,' he said, after jotting down a few 
figures, ' five hundred copies would stand you in something 
like five-and-thirty pounds, exclusive of binding.' 

Five-and-thirty pounds ! Clemmy drew a long breath. 
It was appalling, impossible. * You haven't got so much 
about you, I suppose ! ' the printer went on, with a laugh. 
Clemmy's eyes filled with tears. Five-and-thirty pounds ! 
And a brown girl ! Was it likely .'' 

' I doan't want it print jes' yet,' she answered, with an 
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IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

effort, hardly keeping back her tears. ' I only come to ax 
— walk in all de way from St. Tammas-in-de-Vale, so make 
me tired. Bime-by, p'raps, I print him — when I done got 
de money. I doan't gotitjes' yet — but I'm gwine home 
to get it.' 

And home she went, heavy-hearted ; home she went to 
get it. Five-and-thirty pounds, but she meant to earn it. 
Tramp, tramp, tramp, she trudged along to St. Thomas. 
Between the pestilential lagoons on the road to Spanish 
Town she thought it all out. Before she reached the out- 
skirts, with her baby at her breast, she had already matured 
her plan of campaign for the future. Come what might, she 
must make enough money to print Ivan Greet's masterpiece. 
She was only a brown girl, but she was still in possession of 
the two-acre plot; and possession is always nine points of 
the law, in Jamaica as in England. Indeed, with her 
simple West Indian notions of proprietorship and inherit- 
ance, Clemmy never doubted for a moment they were 
really her own, as much as if she were Ivan's lawful widow. 
Nobody had yet come to disturb or evict her ; nobody had 
the right, in Jamaica at least : for Ivan Greet's heirs, 
executors, and assigns slumbered at peace, five thousand 
miles away, oversea in England. So, as Clemmy tramped 
on, along the dusty highroad, and between the malarious 
swamps, and through the grey streets of dismantled Spanish 
Town, and up the grateful coolness of the Rio Cobre ravine 
to her home in St. Thomas, she said to herself and to his 
baby at her breast a thousand times over how she would 
toil and moil, and save and scrape, and earn money to print 
his last work at last as he meant it to be printed. 



315 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 



IX 

And she worked with a will. She didn't know it was 
a heroic resolve on her part ; she only knew she had got 
to do it. She planted yam and coffee and tobacco. Coffee 
and tobacco need higher cultivation than the more thriftless 
class of negroes usually care to bestow upon them ; but 
Clemmy was a brown girl, and she woi-ked as became the 
descendant of so many strenuous white ancestors. She 
could live herself on the yams and bread-fruit ; when her 
crop was ripe she could sell the bananas and coffee and 
tobacco, and hoard up the money she got in a belt round 
her waist, for she never could trust all that precious coin 
away from her own person. 

From the day of her return, she worked hard with a will ; 
and on market-days she trudged down with her basket on 
her head and her baby in her arms to sell her surplus pro- 
duce in Linstead market. Every quattie she earned she 
tied up tight in the girdle round her waist. When the 
quatties reached eight she exchanged them for a shilling — 
one shilling more towards the thirty-five pounds it would 
cost her to print Ivan Greet's last idyll ! The people in 
St. Thomas were kind to Clemmy. ' Him doan't nebber 
get ober de buckra deat',' they said. ' Him take it berry 
to heart. Him lub him fe' true, dat gal wit' de buckra ! ' 
So they helped her still, as they had helped Ivan in his 
lifetime. Many a one gave her an hour's work at her plot 
when the drought threatened badly, or aided her to get in 
her yams and sweet potatoes before the rainy season. 

Clemmy was an Old Connexion Baptist. They all 
belonged to the Old Connexion in the Linstead district. 
Your negro is strong on doctrinal theology, and he likes 
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IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

the practical sense of sins visibly washed away by total 
immersion. It gives him a comfortable feeling of efficient 
regeneration which no mere infant sprinkling could possibly 
emulate. One morning, on the hillside, as Clemmy stood 
in her plot by a graceful clump of waving bamboos, hack- 
ing down with her cutlass the weeds that encumbered her 
precious coffee-bushes — the bushes that were to print Ivan 
Greet's last manuscript — of a sudden the minister rode by 
on his mountain pony — sleek, smooth-faced, oleaginous, the 
very picture and embodiment of the well-fed, negro-paid, 
up-country missionary. He halted on the path — a mere 
ledge of bridle-track — as he passed where she stood 
bending down at her labour. 

' Hey, Clemmy,' the minister cried in his half-negro tone 
— for, though an Englishman born, he had lived among his 
flock on the mountains so long that he had caught at last 
its very voice and accent — 'they tell me this good-for- 
nothing white man 's dead who lived in the hut here. 
Perhaps it was better so ! Instead of trying to raise and 
improve your people, he had sunk himself to their lowest 
level. So you 've got his hut now ! And what are you 
doing, child, with the coffee and tobacco .'' ' 

Clemmy's face burned hot ; this was sheer desecration ! 
The flush almost showed through her dusky brown skin, so 
intense was her indignant wrath at hearing her dead Ivan 
described by that sleek fat creature as a 'good-for-nothing 
white man.' But she answered back bravely, ' Him good 
friend to me fe' true, sah. I doan't know nuffin 'bout 
what make him came heah, but I nebber see buckra treat 
nagur anywhere same way like he treat dem. An' I lubbed 
him true. And I growin' dem crop dah to prin' de book 
him gone left behind him.' 

The minister reflected. This was sheer contumacy. 
' But the land 's not yours,' he said testily. * It belongs 
to the man's relations — his heirs or his creditors. Unless 

317 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 

of course/ he added, after a pause, just to make things 
sure, ' he left it by will to you.' 

' No, sah, him doant make no will/ Clemmy answered, 
trembling, ' an' him doan't leave it to anybody. But I lib 
on de land while Ivan lib, an' I doan't gwine to quit it for 
no one on eart' now him dead and buried.' 

' You were his housekeeper, I think,' the minister went 
on, musing. 

And Clemmy, adopting that usual euphemism of the 
country where such relations are habitual, made answer, 
hanging her head, ' Yes, sah, I was him housekeeper.' 

' What was his name ? ' the minister asked, taking out a 
small note-book. 

' Dem call him Ivan Greet,' Clemmy answered in- 
cautiously. 

' Ivan Greet,' the minister repeated, stroking his smooth 
double chin and reflecting inwardly. ' Ivan Greet ! Ivan 
Greet ! No doubt a Russian ! . . . Well, Clemmy, you 
must remember, this land 's not yours ; and if only we 
can find out where Ivan Greet belonged, and write to his 
relations — which is, of course, our plain duty — you '11 have 
to give it up and go back to your father.' He shook his 
pony's reins. * Get up. Duchess ! ' he cried calmly. ' Good 
morning, Clemmy ; good morning.' 

' Marnin', sah,' Clemmy answered, with a vague fore- 
boding, her heart standing still with chilly fear within 
her. 

But, as soon as the minister's ample back was turned, she 
laid down her cutlass, took up little Vanna from the ground 
beside her, pressed the child to her breast, and rushed with 
passionate tears to the box in the hut that contained, in 
many folds, his precious manuscript. She took the key 
from her neck, and unlocked it eagerly. Then she brought 
forth the handkerchief, unwound it with care, and stared 
hard through her tears at that sacred title-page. His 
318 



IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

relations indeed ! Who was nearer him than herself? Who 
had ever so much right to till that plot of land as she who 
was the guardian of his two dying legacies ? She would 
use it to feed his child, and to print his last book. She 
could kill his own folk if they came there to take it from 
her ! 



X 

For weeks and weeks after that, Clemmy worked on in 
fear and trembling. Would Ivan's friends come out to 
claim that precious plot from her — the plot that was to 
publish his immortal masterpiece ? For she knew it was 
immortal ; had not Ivan himself, while he read it, explained 
so much to her? But slowly she plucked up heart, as 
week after week passed away undisturbed, and no inter- 
loper came to destroy her happiness. She began to believe 
the minister had said rather more than he meant ; he never 
had written at all to Ivan's folk in England. Month after 
month slipped away ; and the mango season came, and the 
tobacco leaves were picked in good condition and sold, 
and the coffee-berries ripened. Negro friends passed her 
hut, nodding kindly salute. 'You makin' plenty money, 
Clemmy? You sell de leaf dear? Hey, but de pickney 
look well ? Him farder proud now if him can see de 
pickney.' 

At last the rainy season was over, and the rivers were full. 
Mosquito larvEe swarmed and wriggled by thousands in the 
shallow lagoons ; and when they got their wings, the sea- 
breeze drove them up in countless numbers to the deep 
basin of St. Thomas, a lake-like expanse in the central 
range ringed round by a continuous amphitheatre of very 
high mountains. They were a terrible plague, those mos- 
quitoes; they drove poor little Vanna half wild with pain 

319 



IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

and terror. A dozen times in the night the tender little 
creature woke crying from their bites. Clemmy stretched 
a veil over her face, but that made little difference. Those 
wretched mosquitoes bit right through the veil. Clemmy 
didn't know where to turn to protect her baby. 

' Him buckra baby ; dat what de matter/ old Rachel 
suggested gravely. ' Nagur baby doan't feel de 'skeeter 
bite same like o' buckra. Nagur folk and 'skeeter belong 
all o' same country. But buckra doan't hab no 'skeeter in 
England. Missy Queen doan't 'low dem. Now dis 'ere 
chile buckra — tree part buckra an' one part nagur. Dat 
what for make him so much feel de 'skeeter.' 

' But what can I do for 'top him, marra ? ' Clemmy 
inquired despondently. 

' It only one way/ old Rachel answered, with a very 
sage face, ' burn smudge before de door. Dat drive away 
'skeeter.' 

Now a smudge is a fresh-cut turf of aromatic peaty 
marsh vegetation ; you light it before the hut, where it 
smoulders slowly during the day and evening, and the 
smoke keeps the mosquitoes from entering the place 
while the door stands open. Clemmy tried the smudge 
next day, and found it most efficacious. For two or three 
nights little Vanna slept peacefully. Old Rachel nodded 
her head. 

' Keep him burning/ she advised, ' till de water dry up, 
an' de worm, dem kill, and it doan't no more 'skeeter.' 

Clemmy followed her mother's advice to the letter in this 
matter. Each morning when she went out to work on her 
plot, with little Vanna laid tenderly in her one shawl on 
the ground close by, she lighted the smudge and kept it 
smouldering all day, renewing it now and again as it burnt 
out through the evening. On Thursday, as was her wont, 
she went down with her goods to Linstead to market. On 
her head she carried her basket of ' bread-kind ' — that is to 
320 



IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

say, yam, and the other farinaceous roots or fruits which are 
to the negro what wheaten bread is to the European peasant. 
She walked along erect, with the free, swinging gait peculiar 
to her countrywomen, untrammelled by stays and the other 
abominations of civilised costume ; Httle Vanna on her arm 
crowed and gurgled merrily. 'Twas a broiling hot day, 
but Clemmy's heart was lighter. Was there ever such a 

treasure as that fair little Vanna, whitest of quadroons ? 

and she was saving up fast for the second of those thirty- 
five precious pounds towards printing Ivan's manuscript ! 

In the market-place at Linstead she sat all day among 
the chattering negresses, who chaffered for quatties, with 
white teeth displayed, or higgled over the price of bread- 
fruit and plantain. 'Tis a pretty scene, one of these 
tropical markets, with its short-kirtled black girls, bare- 
legged and barefooted, in their bright cotton gowns and 
their crimson bandannas. Before them stand baskets of 
golden mangoes and purple star-apples ; oranges lie piled 
in little pyramids on the ground; green shaddocks and 
great slices of pink-fleshed water-melon tempt the thirsty 
passer-by with their juicy lusciousness. Over all rises 
the constant din of shrill African voices; 'tis a perfect 
saturnalia of hubbub and noise, instinct with bright colour 
and alive with merry faces. 

So Clemmy sat there all day, enjoying herself after her 
fashion, in this weekly gathering of all the society known 
to her. For the market-place is the popular negro sub- 
stitute for the At Homes and Assembly Rooms of more 
civilised communities. Vanna crowed with delight to see 
the little black babies in their mother's arms, and the 
pretty red tomatoes scattered around loose among the 
gleaming oranges. It was late when Clemmy rose to go 
home to her hamlet. She trudged along, gaily enough, 
with her laughing companions; more than a year had 
passed now since Ivan's death, and at times, in the joy of 
X 321 



IVAN GREET'S MASTERPIECE 

more money earned for him, she could half forget her 
great grief for Ivan. The sun was setting as she reached 
her own plot. For a moment her heart came up into her 
mouth. Then she started with a cry. She gazed before 
her in blank horror. The hut had disappeared ! In its 
place stood a mass of still smouldering ashes. 

In one second she understood the full magnitude of her 
loss, and how it had all happened. With a woman's quick- 
ness she pictured it to herself by pure instinct. The 
smudge had set fire to the clumps of dry grass by the door 
of the hut; the grass had lighted up the thin wattle and 
palm thatch ; and once set afire, on that sweltering day, her 
home had burnt down to the ground like tinder. 

Two or three big negroes stood gazing in blank silence 
at the little heap of ruins — or rather of ash, for all was now 
consumed to a fine white powder. Clemmy rushed at them 
headlong with a wild cry of suspense. ' You save de box ? ' 
she faltered out in her agony. * You save de box } You 
here when it burning } ' 

' Nobody doan't see till him all in a blaze,' one young 
negro replied in a surly voice, as negroes use in a moment 
of disaster ; ' an' den, when we see, we doan't able to do 
nuffin.' 

Clemmy laid down her child. ' De box, de box ! ' she 
cried in a frenzied voice, digging down with tremulous 
hands into the smoking ashes. The square form of the 
hut was still rudely preserved by the pile of white 
powder, and she knew in a moment in which corner to 
look for it. But she dug like a mad creature. Soon all 
was uncovered. The calcined remains of Ivan's clothes 
were there, and a few charred fragments of Avhat seemed 
like paper. And that was all. The precious manuscript 
itself was uttei'ly destroyed. Ivan Greet's one Master- 
piece was lost for ever. 
.322 



IVAN GREETS MASTERPIECE 



XI 



Clemmy crouched on the ground with her arms round her 
knees. She sat there cowering. She was too appalled for 
tears ; her eyes were dry, but her heart was breaking. 

For a minute or two she crouched motionless in deathly 
silence. Even the negroes held their peace. Instinctively 
they divined the full depth of her misery. 

After a while she rose again, and took Vanna on her lap. 
The child cried for food, and Clemmy opened her bosom. 
Then she sat there long beside the ruins of her hut. 
Negresses crowded round and tried in vain to comfort her. 
How could they understand her loss ? They didn't know 
what it meant : for in that moment of anguish Clemmy felt 
herself a white woman. They spoke to her of the hut. 
The hut ! What to her were ten thousand palaces ! If 
you had given her the King's House at Spanish Town that 
night it would have been all the same. Not the roof over 
her head, but Ivan Greet's manuscript. 

She rocked herself up and down as she cowered on the 
ground, and moaned inarticulately. The rocking and moan- 
ing lulled Vanna to sleep. His child was now all she had 
left to live for. For hours she crouched on the bare ground, 
never uttering a word : the negresses sat round, and watched 
her intently. Now and again old Rachel begged her to 
come home to her stepfather's hut; but Clemmy couldn't 
stir a step from those sacred ashes. It grew dark and 
chilly, for Ivan Greet's plot stood high on the mountain. 
One by one the negresses dropped off to their huts ; 
Clemmy sat there still, with her naked feet buried deep 
in the hot ash, and Ivan Greet's baby clasped close to her 
bosom. 

323 



IVAN GREET^S MASTERPIECE 

At last with tropical unexpectedness, a great flash of 
lightning blazed forth, all at once, and showed the wide 
basin and the mountains round as distinct as daylight. 
Instantly and simultaneously a terrible clap of thunder 
bellowed aloud in their ears. Then the rain-cloud burst. 
It came down in a single sheet with equatorial violence. 

Old Rachel and the few remaining negresses fled home. 
They seized Clemmy's arm, and tried to drag her; but 
Cleramy sat dogged, and refused to accompany them. 
Then they started and left her. All night long the 
storm raged, and the thunder roared awesomely. Great 
flashes lighted up swaying stems of coconuts and bent 
clumps of bamboo; huge palms snapped short like reeds 
before the wind ; loud peals rent the sky with their 
ceaseless artillery. And all night long, in spite of storm 
and wind, the rain pelted down in one unending flood, 
as though it poured by great leaks from some heavenly 
reservoir. 

Torrents tore down the hills; many huts were swept 
away ; streams roared and raved ; devastation marked 
their track; 'twas a carnival of ruin, a memorable hurri- 
cane. Hail rattled at times ; all was black as pitch, save 
when the lightning showed everything more vivid than 
daylight. But Clemmy sat on, hot at heart with her 
agony. 

When morning dawned, the terrified negroes, creeping 
forth from their shanties, found her still on her plot, 
crouching close over his child, but stiff and stark and 
cold and hfeless. Her bare feet had dug deep in the 
ashes of Ivan's hut, now washed by the rain to a sodden 
remnant. Little Vanna just breathed in her dead mother's 
arms. Old Rachel took her. 

And that's why the world has never heard more of Ivan 
Greet's Masterpiece. 

324 



XII 



THE CHURCHWARDEN'S 
BROTHER 



THE CHURCHWARDEN'S BROTHER 

When I was curate at Redleigh, before my cousin presented 
me to the very comfortable vicarage where I am now 
installed— only four hundred souls, and no dissenters !— I 
lodged for a while in the house of a most respectable 
country grocer of the name of Vernon. He was an excel- 
lent person, this Edward Vernon, a staunch pillar of the 
Church, ample of girth, like a Norman column, and a 
prosperous man of business. Providence had favoured him. 
He owned a considerable amount of house-property in the 
Redleigh neighbourhood, after the fashion of the well-to-do 
rural tradesman; for I have noticed on my way through 
the world in England that the smaller capitalist never caries 
to invest in anything on earth save the tangible and the 
visible. He'd rather get his two per cent sure out of 
cottages in his own parish than five or six out of unknown 
and uncertain colonial ventures. Australia is a name to 
him : the Argentine a phantom. But a cottage is a reality. 
He believes in house-property, and he pins his faith on it. 
' As safe as houses,' is to him no mere phrase, but the simple 
statement of a fundamental principle. 

Vernon was one of our churchwardens, and a most 
estimable man. His clean-shaven face invited moral con- 
fidence. Though he was close, very close, in his personal 
expenditure, and I 'm afraid a hard landlord to his poorer 
tenants, he always subscribed liberally to all church under- 
takings, and took care to keep on excellent terms with our 

327 



THE CHURCHWARDEN S BROTHER 

worthy vicar. (I call poor old Wilkins ' worthy/ because I 
think that achromatic conventional epithet exactly suits 
my late ecclesiastical superior's character : he was one of 
those negatively good and colourless men for whose special 
behoof that amiable non-committing adjective must have 
been expressly invented by the wisdom of our ancestors.) 
People even wondered at times that Vernon, who had a 
substantial private house of his own, apart from his business, 
should care to receive a lodger into the bosom of his family ; 
and indeed, I must admit, he never let his rooms to any one 
save the passing curate of the moment. Ill-natured critics 
used to say he did it on purpose 'to keep in with the 
parsons ' ; and, to say the truth, a becoming respect for the 
persons of the clergy was a marked peculiarity in Vernon's 
well-balanced mind. I always considered him in every 
respect a model of discreet behaviour for the laity in his 
own rank and class of society. 

He had his faults, of course ; we are none of us perfect — 
not even bishops, as I always remark after eveiy visita- 
tion. His relations with Mrs. Vernon, for example, were a 
trifle strained, though naturally I can't say whether the 
blame lay rather with him or with her; and he behaved 
at times with undue severity to his children. I couldn't 
help noticing, too, that very late at nights the good man 
seemed occasionally less clear and articulate in his pronun- 
ciation than in the middle of the day; but I ought in 
justice to add that if this vocal indecision were really due 
to incautious indulgence in an extra glass of wine with a 
friend over his pipe, Vernon had at least the grace and good 
taste to conceal his failing as far as possible. For I observed 
at all such times that he talked but sparingly, and in a 
very low voice ; that he avoided my presence with con- 
siderable ingenuity ; and that he seemed thoroughly ashamed 
of himself for his momentary lapse into an undignified 
condition. I am an Oxford man myself, and I can allow 
328 



THE CHURCHWARDEN^S BROTHER 

for such lapses, having rowed bow in my eight when I was 
an undergraduate at Oriel, and enjoyed in my time, as an 
Englishman may, the noisy fun of a good bump-supper. 

Apart from this slight failing, however, which was never 
conspicuous, and which I could hardly have observed had 
I not been admitted into the privacy of Vernon's family, 
I found my landlord in every way a true exponent of what 
I may venture to describe as lower-middle-class Christian 
virtues. He had raised himself by his industry and provi- 
dence to a respectable position ; he had saved and invested 
till he was quite a rich man, as riches went in Redleigh ; 
and though I had occasion more than once to remonstrate 
with him (officially) about the unsavoury condition of the 
Dingle End cottages (popularly known as 'Vernon's Pig- 
geries'), I must allow there was a good deal of truth in his 
apt reply that the cottages were quite good enough for 
the creatures who lived in them. ' When you can never 
get in your rent,' he said, ' without going before the court 
for it, it ain't in human nature, sir, to do much for your 
tenants.' Having the misfortune to be an owner of West 
Indian property myself, I must say in my heart I largely 
sympathised with him. 

I lodged at Vernon's for about two years in very great 
comfort. The Banksia roses looked in at my window-sill. 
Mrs. Vernon was an excellent manager, and had brought her 
husband a considerable fortune. (She was the daughter of a 
notorious Wesleyan miller who worshipped at a galvanised 
iron chapel in an adjoining parish ; but, of course, she had 
conformed as soon as she married the vicar's church- 
warden.) Though she and Vernon were on visibly bad 
terms with one another, which they didn't attempt to 
conceal even before the children, they were both of one 
mind wherever business was concerned, being indeed most 
excellent and cautious stewards of the ample means which 
Providence had vouchsafed them. And the cookery was 

329 



THE CHURCHWARDEN^S BROTHER 

perfect. My modest chop was always grilled to a turn, 
thick, brown, and juicy : I had no fault to find in any way 
with the domestic arrangements. I fancy Mrs. V^ernon, 
though Methodist bred, must have been quite as much alive 
as her husband to the commercial value of a clerical con- 
nection ; certainly she was quite as anxious to increase to 
the utmost the fortune they had acquired by their joint 
exertions. 

At the end of two years, however, a very unpleasant 
event occurred, which made me feel with deep force the 
slightness of the tie by which we all cling on to respect- 
ability and well-being. Vernon came up to me one morning 
with a newspaper in his hand, looking deadly pale, and half 
inarticulate with emotion. ' I beg your pardon, sir,' he 
gasped out with a visible effort, as he pointed with one 
finger to a paragraph of news, ' but have you read this in the 
Standard ? ' 

'Yes, I've read it, Vernon,' I answered, glancing hastily 
at the lines to which his forefinger referred me ; ' it 's a very 
shocking thing ; very shocking indeed : but I make it a rule 
never to take much interest in these sensational police 
cases.' 

'I beg your pardon, sir,' he said again (he was always 
most respectful in his mode of address) ; ' but did you 
happen to notice, the man's name in this horrid report is 
Vernon ? ' 

' Bless my soul, so it is,' I cried, glancing down at it once 
more. I had never thought of connecting it with my 
respectable landlord. 'You can't mean to tell me such a 
disreputable person as the murderer seems to be is in any 
way related to you.' 

"The churchwarden winced. ' Well, it 's no use concealing 

it from you, sir,' he answered, looking down. ' Before half 

an hour's out, all the parish will know it. I'd rather you 

heard it first of all from me, who can explain the affair, than 

330 



THE CHURCHWARDEN^S BROTHER 

from some unfriendly outsider.' And, indeed, it was true 
that Vernon, having got on in the world, hadn't too many 
friends to speak up for him in Redleigh. ' You see the 
name alone 's quite enough to fix it. There aren't likely to 
be many Norcott Vernons in England. They 'd know him 
by that. . . Well, yes, sir ; I '11 admit it ; the man 's my own 
twin brother.' 

' Your own twin brother ! ' I cried, taken aback, ' And in 
a case like this ! All the details so unpleasant ! You don't 
mean to say you think he really and truly murdered this 
woman ? ' 

Vernon's face was very grave. ' Yes, I do, sir,' he 
answered. ' I 'm afraid I must admit it. Norcott was 
always a very bad lot indeed ; an idle, improvident, careless 
fellow as ever existed ; right enough if only just he could 
have kept sober for a week ; but when the drink was in him, 
there was no saying what folly on earth it would drive 
him to.' 

' And the antecedents too ! ' I cried, scanning the paper 
once more. ' Such a disgraceful life ! His unfortunate 
relations with the murdei'ed woman ! If I hadn't heard the 
facts from your own lips, Vernon, I could never have 
believed he was a member of your family ! ' 

' Well, that 's just where it is, sir,' the grocer answered, his 
lips quivering a little. ' He had a wife of his own once — 
a very decent woman, too, though he married improvidently. 
But he killed her with his drinking ; and then he got 
remorse veiy bad for her death, which is always a foolish 
kind of feeling to give way to ; and that drove him to drink 
again, a deal worse than ever ; and after that, he picked up 
with some wretched creature ; and quarrelling with her, 
I suppose, this affair was the end of it.' 

'A knife!' I said, reading it over. ^The worst kind of 
murder. Stabbing always seems to go with the most 
lawless habits.' 

331 



THE CHURCHWARDEN'S BROTHER 

'That's it, sir^' my friend answered. ' I always told him 
he was lawless. But it 's a terrible thing, sir, and no 
mistake, when one's own flesh and blood is had up like that 
on a charge of murder.' 

' It is indeed, Vernon,' I answered, ' and I sympathise 
with you most profoundly. But I 'm going out now to see 
about that choir practice. I '11 talk with you again later on 
about this matter. Will you tell Mrs. Vernon I '11 want my 
beef-tea as usual, if you please, at eleven punctually .'' ' 

For the next day or two, very little was heard in the 
parish except gossip about Norcott Vernon and his early 
enormities. He monopolised Redleigh. I had never even 
heard of the man's existence before ; but now that he was the 
hero of a first-class local domestic tragedy, every old labourer 
in the village had some story to tell of 'young Norcott 
Vernon's' juvenile delinquencies. I improved the occasion, 
indeed, with my boys in the Sunday school by pointing out 
to them how fatal might be the final results of the lawless 
habits engendered (as in this sad case) by the practice of 
tickling trout and playing truant on Saturdays. I found it 
absolutely necessary to do something of the sort, as the 
episode simply filled the minds of my entire Confii-mation 
class. They read the local paper before my very eyes, 
and discussed the chances of the verdict in loud whispers, 
which led me to suppose they had been privately betting 
upon it. 

When the day of the trial at Dorchester ari'ived, Vernon 
begged me with the utmost eagerness to accompany him to 
the assizes. He had always been so useful to me that, 
though the request was made at an inconvenient moment, I 
determined to go with him ; besides, if it came to that, the 
trial itself promised to be in most ways a sufficiently curious 
one. I did my best, however, to keep the lads in the 
parish from attending the assizes : a morbid interest in such 
sights, I hold, is most injurious to young people. On the 
332 



THE CHURCHWARDEN'S BROTHER 

morning fixed for the trial, I went off myself with Vernon, 
taking my seat, as was then my wont, owing to straitened 
means, in a third-class carriage. It was one of those com- 
modious little horse-boxes, still in use on the Great Western, 
open at the top between the different compartments ; and 
as we got in, we happened to catch the end of a conversa- 
tion carried on between two of my poorer parishioners. 
' Wull, what I says, Tom,' one of them was remarking to his 
neighbour, ' is just like this ; Ted were always a long zight 
the worst of they two Vernons, for all he 's so thick with 
the passons and such-like. Norcott, he were open, that 's 
where it is, don't 'ee zee .^ — but Ted, he's a sneak, and 
always were one. He 'd zell his own mother for money, he 
'ould. Whereas Norcott, wy, he'd give 'ee the coat off 
his back, if on'y a decent zart o' chap was to ask him 
vor it.' 

' That's so, Clem,' the other man answered him confidently. 
'You've just about hit upon it. And the reason Ted 
Vernon's takin' passon along of him to 'sizes to-day, 
why, it 's just 'cause he do think it do look more decent- 
like, when he 's goin' to zee his own twin brother found 
guilty and zentenced off vor wilful murder.' 

I considered it would be indecorous on our part to over- 
hear any more of so personal a conversation (especially as 
there were two of us), so I coughed rather loudly to check 
their chatter, and, I 'm pleased to say, put a stop at once to 
that lively colloquy. A moment later, I felt rather than 
saw a cautious head peep slowly over the partition ; then 
a low voice whispered in very awestruck tones, ' Law, Tom, 
if that ain't passon hisself a-zittin' along o' Ted in next 
compartment ! ' 

When we reached the court, the murder case was the 
first on the day's list for trial. Accused was already in the 
dock when we entered. I looked hard at the prisoner. As 
often happens in the case of twins, he remarkably resembled 

333 



THE CHURCHWARDEN'S BROTHER 

his brother the churchwarden. To be sure, his swollen face 
bore evident marks of drink and dissipation, while Edward 
Vernon's was smooth and smug and respectable-looking ; 
but in spite of this mere difference of acquired detail, their 
features, and even their expressions, remained absurdly alike, 
though I fancied the prisoner must have possessed in youth 
a somewhat franker and more open countenance, with 
handsomer traits in it than the Redleigh grocer's. He sat 
through the trial, which was short and hasty, with an air of 
fierce bravado on his bloated features, veiy different indeed 
from the respectful deference which his brother would have 
displayed to judge, jury, and counsel. The story of his 
crime was a vulgar and sordid one. The verdict, of course, 
was a foregone conclusion. The man's very face would have 
sufficed to condemn him, even without the assiduous bung- 
ling of his lawyer, who didn't try to do more than plead 
mitigating circumstances, which might possibly have reduced 
the verdict from the capital charge to one of manslaughter. 
The jury found the prisoner guilty without leaving their 
box ; and the judge, Avith what seemed to me almost pre- 
cipitate haste, assumed the black cap, and in a few short 
words passed sentence of death upon him for the wilful 
mui'der of the wretched creature with whom, as he rightly 
said, the man shared his infamy. 

I went back to Redleigh in the same carriage with 
Vernon, who seemed very much upset by this distressing 
circumstance. But what surprised me most was the strange 
and so to speak sneaking way in which he appeared more 
than once to disclaim any connection with his brother's 
crime. He was so respectable a man himself, and so excel- 
lent a churchman, that I 'm sure if he hadn't mooted the 
subject of his own accord nobody would ever for one 
moment have thought of confusmg his moral character in 
any way with his brother's. But he said to me more than 
once as mc returned, in an argumentative voice, ' Look here, 
334 



THE CHURCHWARDEN'S BROTHER 

Mr. Ogilvie ; people talk a lot of nonsense, you know, 
about twins and their likeness. They'll tell you down our 
way that what one twin '11 do, the other '11 do as well as 
him. But that's all plain rubbish. Twins are born just 
as different as other people. Now my brother and me were 
always quite different. Not one thing alike in us. From 
the very beginning, Norcott was always a proper bad lot. 
Do what I would, I never could teach him prudence or 
saving. He was always breaking out, and had no self- 
restraint; and self-restraint, I say, is the principle at the 
bottom of all the virtues. It 's the principle at the bottom 
of all the virtues. And Norcott could never be kept from 
the drink either : when a man drinks like him, it just makes 
a fiend of him. Especially in our family. Unless he has 
self-restraint — self-restraint ; self-restraint ' — he drew him- 
self up proudly — ' and then, of com-se, that 's quite another 
matter.' 

Three days after he came up to me again. 'Would you 
do me a gi-eat kindness, sir ? ' he asked. ' You know you 've 
always been a very good friend to me.' 

' What is it, Vernon } ' I inquired, not being given to 
promise anything in the dark in that way. 

'Well, it's this, sir,' he answ^ered, hesitating a little. 'I 
want to go and see poor Norcott in Dorchester jail before 
he 's turned off, if I may venture to call it so ; and I don't 
exactly like to go near him by myself — it's a delicate 
business : so I thought, as you were a clergyman, and a 
proper person (as I may say) to accompany me, perhaps you 
wouldn't mind just running across with me.' 

I had an errand or two in Dorchester, as it happened, 
that day ; and I felt besides a certain natural curiosity to 
see how the fellow took the prospect of hanging, now the 
bravado of the trial had cooled off him a little ; so I said, 
' It 's not exactly convenient for me to go to-day, Vernon ' 
(not to make myself too cheap) ; ' but still, if you think it 

335 



THE CHURCHWARDEN^S BROTHER 

would be a comfort to you to have a clergyman by your 
side, why, to oblige a parishioner, and as a matter of duty, I 
don't mind accompanying you.' 

' Thank you, sir,' he replied, looking at me rather 
curiously ; ' I 'm sure I 'm very much obliged indeed to you.' 
He said it, as he always said everything, respectfully and 
deferentially ; yet I thought I somehow noticed a queer 
undercurrent of contempt in the tone of his voice which 
I had never before observed in it. And I certainly detected 
a strange gleam of devilry in the corner of his eye as he 
bowed and withdrew, which reminded me at once of his 
brother the murdei-er. 

However, I thought no more about it at the time, and we 
went across to Dorchester next day very amicably, Vernon 
thanking me profusely more than once on the way for my 
goodness in accompanying him. We had a pass from the 
authorities to see the prisoner ; and the moment we entered 
the fellow's cell I could perceive at a glance he was as 
unrepentant as ever. His eyes were sullen. In fact, though 
of course he couldn't possibly have had access to brandy in 
prison, he wore the exact air of a man who has been drinking 
heavily. I suppose he had acquired by dint of long practice 
a permanently drunken aspect and habit, which followed 
him even into the enforced teetotalism of the condemned 
cell. His manner was offensive, and extremely hectoring. 
As soon as his brother spoke to him, he burst out at once 
into a long, loud peal of discordant laughter. His hilarity 
shocked me. ' Hullo, Ted,' he cried, seizing his brother's 
hand. 'So you've come to preach to me! And you've 
brought along a parson ! Well, well, that's characteristic ! 
You couldn't drop in without a devil-dodger, couldn't you } 
I know why you've done that. It's half of it hypocrisy; 
but it 's more than half that you didn't dare to face me — 
here, alone, in my cell — without a parson by your side to 
keep you in countenance ! ' 
336 



THE CHURCHWARDEN'S BROTHER 

I felt <ijrieved to see a man so near his last end in such an 
unbecoming frame of mind for one in his position ; so I 
ventured to encroach so far upon the province of the prison 
chaplain as to offer him a little spiritual advice and exhorta- 
tion. His brother, too, spoke to him most nicely and well, 
reminding him of their innocent childhood together, and of 
the many opportunities of leading a better life which had 
often been afforded him by the kindness of relations. But 
the condemned man seemed to wallow in a condition of 
hopeless rebellion ; he had been delivered over, I judged, to 
a reprobate mind, Avhich rendered him unwilling to listen to 
advice or consolation of any kind. His manner remained 
insolent and defiant to the very end ; nothing that my 
companion could say to encourage him would bring him to 
a proper sense of his awful position. 

At last, towards the close of our interview, when Vernon 
was endeavouring to utter a few appropriate words of affec- 
tionate fai'ewell, the prisoner burst forth of a sudden with a 
fierce outbreak of language, the very words of which are 
engraved to this day on my memory. ' Why, Ted, you 
shallow sneak,' he cried, with every outer appearance of 
profound indignation, ' what humbug this all is — your 
pretending to preach to me ! You know from your child- 
hood up you 've always been a sight a worse fellow than I 
have ! You know it, and I know it ! Bone of my bone, 
and blood of my blood, I know every thought, every feeling, 
every fibre of you. I know the false bent of you. Why, 
you and I are the selfsame man — except only that I was 
never a sneak and a hypocrite as you are. When we were 
boys at school, we got into the same scrapes ; but you 
sneaked out, and / got flogged for them. When we stole 
apples together, it was I who climbed the hedge, and you 
who kept the biggest half of the apples for yourself, and ate 
them secretly. Every instinct and impulse that has led 
me into this scrape, you have it as well as / have. Only, 
Y 337 



THE CHURCHWARDEN'S BROTHER 

you have in addition that confounded self-restraint of 
yours, which / call covetousness and worldly wisdom.' 

Edward Vernon seemed to wince as the criminal went on; 
but he bowed his head low and answered nothing. His 
brother still continued in a more excited voice : ' Oh yes, 
I know you ; every trick and eveiy trait of you. You mean- 
spirited hypocrite ! The family vices, you 've got them as 
bad as I have, and one of them worse than me. There 
never was a Vernon yet, I know, but loved the drink and 
loved the money. I love them myself; you love them as 
well or better than I do. But / loved drink best ; and yon 
loved money. That was meaner and worse than me. / 
married for love a woman I doted on ; and then, I led her a 
wretched life with the drink, and repented time and again, 
as we Vernons will repent — you know the way of us — and 
after that, fell back again. Yon married for money a 
woman you despised, and lived your wretched life at logger- 
heads with her for ever, being only at one for a time in 
your miserable money-grubbing. I loved the money, too ; 
but I had grace enough left to hate myself for loving it ; 
and it drove me into drink, worse, worse than ever ; for 
whenever I tried to lead what j/om would call " a decent life," 
I found in a week or two I was saving and scraping and 
carneying like you, and degenerating into a confounded 
respectable hypocrite. I despised and disliked myself so 
much for that — never being able to sink quite as low as you 
do — that I turned back to my drink, and respected myself 
the more for it. Then poor Lucy died — I hurried her to 
her grave, I know ; no fear of Ihat with you ; your Martha 
won't be hurried to the grave by any one ; she '11 stroll down 
in her own good time, fat and sleek and respectable. I 
repented for that again — and drank worse than ever over it. 
You drink too, but late at night, in your own house — quietly, 
decently, soberly — like a respectable tradesman and a 
solvent churchwarden. You keep a parson in the house 
338 



THE CHURCHWARDEN S BROTHER 

with you to prevent your breaking out some evening 
unawares into a Vernon fandango. Oh yes ; I understand 
you ! Then I picked up with poor Moll. I 'm built like 
that. I must have a woman about, to care for and 
sympathise with— and to bully when I m not sober But I 
wasn't going to inflict my poor drunken self upon a pure 
good woman, whom I 'd have driven to her grave the same 
as I did Lucy ; so I picked up with poor Moll there She 
could drink with me herself; and in her way I loved her 
Don't pull a shocked mug : you know how that was just as 
well as I do ; for you 're the same build as me, and, you see 
you 're a drunkard. I 've always that consolation in talkino^ 
to you, Ted, that at least I feel sure you can quite under^ 
stand me. Two of a mind don't need an interpreter. 
Well, we quarrelled one night, Moll and I, both as drunk as 
owls— quarrelled about another man; and in my heat I 
struck her. She up and had at me. It was knives after that • 
her first, me after; and-here I am now, awaiting execution.' 
But, Ted, you know it's only because you're a meaner 
sneak than I am that I'm sitting here, a condemned 
murderer to-day, while you're a respectable and respected 
tradesman.' 

To my great surprise, Edward Vernon seemed immensely 
impressed by this unseemly harangue, and, covering his face 
with his hands, cowered visibly before the man. For mv 
own dignity's sake, I felt it was high time this unfortunate 
interview should come to a conclusion. ' Vernon ' I said 
touching the grocer's arm, 'let's go now, I beg' of you' 
Our presence is superfluous. It 's clear we can do your 
unhappy brother no good. He's not in a fitting frame of 
mmd just now to receive with advantage our advice or 
condolence. Suppose we leave him to the kindly ministra- 
tions of the prison chaplain } ' 

'You're right, sir,' the grocer answered, taking his hand- 
kerchief from his face (and, contrary to all belief, I saw he 

329 



THE CHURCHWARDEN S BROTHER 

had been crying), ' I 'm afraid my presence rather 
aggravates than consoles him.' 

The murderer rose fi*om his seat. His face was hateful. 
' Ted, Ted/ he cried out, ' you infernal hypocrite ; will you 
keep up your hypocrisy even at a moment like this before 
your condemned brother } Oh, Ted, I 'm ashamed of you. 
Go home, sir, go home ; take your bottle from your box, 
and repent a good honest Vernon repentance ! Get 
decently drunk before the eyes of the world, and confess 
your sneakishness. It 's money-grubbing, not virtue, that 's 
kept you straight so long. If you 've any conscience left, 
boy, go home and repent of it. Go home and get drunk ; 
and let all the world know which man of us two was really 
the worst devil ! ' 

I seized the grocer's arm and hurried him by main force 
out of the condemned cell. I felt this scene was growing 
unseemly. But all the way back to Redleigh he sat and 
crouched in the train, looking as if he had been whipped, 
and white as a ghost with terror. 

Three days after, Norcott Vernon was to be executed 
at Dorchester. In the morning his brother Edward dis- 
appeared from Redleigh, and didn't turn up again till late 
in the evening. About eleven o'clock, I was sitting in my 
own rooms, in my long lounge chair, engaged in reading 
the excellent literary supplement to the Guardian ; and, 
having mislaid my paper-knife, no doubt through the 
culpable negligence of Mrs. Vernon's housemaid, I had just 
taken from its sheath the little Norwegian dirk or dagger 
which I brought back the year before from my trip to the 
Hardanger Fiord. I had cut the pages open with it, and 
laid the knife down carelessly on the table by my side 
(which ought to be a lesson to one in habits of tidiness), 
when a loud and disgraceful noise upon the staii's aroused my 
attention — a noise as of quarrel and drunken scuffling. 
Next instant, with a rude burst, my door was pushed open, 
340 



THE CHURCHWARDEN'S BROTHER 

and my Jandlord entered, all red and blustering, without 
even so much as a knock to announce his arrival. 

He had been drinking, that was evident ; for his face was 
flushed : and I noticed, almost without consciously recognis- 
ing the fact, that his features and expression now resembled 
more closely than ever the condemned man whom I had 
seen a few days before in his cell at Dorchester. He 
advanced towards me with an insolent hectoring air which 
exactly recalled his unfortunate brother's. ' Hullo, parson,' 

he cried, laughing loud : ' so there you are at your studies 

looking over the list of next presentations ! Ha, ha, ha ; 
that 's a good joke ! You 're counting the loaves and fishes. 
How much the advowson ? Present incumbent, I suppose, 
over eighty, and failing ! ' 

I had never before seen the man in such a state as this ; so 
I rose severely and fronted him. ' Vernon,' I observed in my 
most chilling voice, ^you've been drinking, sir, drinking!' 

He drew back a pace, and throwing his head on one side, 
looked long at me and sniggered. ' Yes, I have, you image,' 
he answered. 'You fool, I've been drinking. Honestly, 

openly, manfully drinking. And I 've got it on me now 

the Vernon repentance. I 've been over to Dorchester— oh 
yes, I've been over : to see the black flag hoisted over the 
jail when my brother Norcott was turned off"— for the 
murder I myself as good as committed.' 

' What do you mean, man ? ' I cried, taken aback. ' You 're 
drunk, sir : dead drunk ! Go at once from my presence ! ' 

' Drunk } ' he answered. ' Yes, drunk ! But precious 
sober for all that. I 've come to myself at last. I won't 
endure it any longer. . . . Why, do you think, you great 
goggle-eyed owl, I like all this flummery? Do you think 
I like your parsonical cant } I m a Vernon, and I hate it ; 
though for the money's sake, the vile money, the hateful 
money that was always our stumblingblock, I 've endured it 
and put up with it. But I 'ra done with it now ; I 've slaved 

341 



THE CHURCHWARDEN'S BROTHER 

and saved enough : I 've come to myself, as Norcott advised, 
and I tell you, I 'm done with it. You thought I had no 
conscience, you blue-faced baboon ; but I had, and I 've 
awaked it. Good gin 's awaked it. It 's wide awake now, 
and it 's driving me to this, for poor Norcott's murder. / 
did it as well as he ; I did it, and I '11 pay for it. I could 
have done the same thing any day if I 'd only had the 
courage, and if it hadn't been for this cursed respectability's 
sake that I endured for the money. I just kept it down, 
because I wasn't half the man my brother Norcott was. 
They 've hanged him for being more of a man than I was. 
He loved his wife, and / hate mine. But I 'm a man too ; 
and I can murder with the best of them.' 

I began to be alarmed. ' Go to bed, you wretched sot ! ' I 
exclaimed severely. 

But he burst into a loud laugh. ' No, no ; I won't go 
to bed,' he answered, ' — till I 've had your blood. I '11 
have your blood, or some one's. Then I 'II go up sober for 
once, and sleep the sleep of a baby.' 

As he spoke, his eye chanced to fall upon the Norwegian 
dagger which I had incautiously laid down beside the 
Guardiati upon the table. He snatched it up and brandished 
it. I turned pale, I suppose ; at any i-ate, I 'm sure I 
retired with some haste to the far side of the sitting-room. 
He followed me like a demon. ' Why, you white-livered 
cur,' he cried, in a voice like a madman's, 'you're afraid of 
dying ! Ha, ha, ha ! that 's good ! A parson, and afraid ! 
Afraid of going home ! Where 's the point of your religion ? ' 

I dodged him about the table ; but he flew after me, 
round and round. He brandished the knife as he did so. 

' I 've got a conscience,' he shrieked aloud, ' and it 's wide 
awake now. I 'm done with hypocrisy. No more money- 
grubbing for me. I shall have somebody's blood. It ain't 
fair poor Norcott should be hanged by the neck till dead, 
and worse men than he alive and respected ! I shall come 
342 



THE CHURCHWARDEN^S BROTHER 

out just for once in my life to-night. I shall show my real 
character. Let 's be honest and straightforward. — I '11 
drive it up to the haft in you.' 

He poked the knife out. Then he flung back his head 
and roared with laughter. ' How the devil-dodger runs ! ' 
he cried, lunging at me. ' It does one good to see him. 
But I '11 have his blood, all the same. I shall swing for it, 
like Norcott.' 

With a desperate effort, I rushed forward and seized the 
deadly weapon from the fellow's hands. In doing so, I cut 
myself with the blade rather seriously. But I wrenched 
it away, all the same. He let me wrench it. But he stood 
there and laughed at me. Then he retreated towards the 
door, and pulled out — a new pistol. ' I bought this at 
Dorchester,' he said calmly, cocking it. ' I bought it this 
morning, for conscience' sake, to do a murder with.' 

I faced him in silence. He pointed it at me and laughed 
again. ' What a precious funk they 're in ! ' he cried, 
seeming to burst with amusement. '^What a lot they all 
think of their tuppeny-ha'penny lives ! It 's enough to 
make one laugh. But I don't think I '11 shoot him. He 
ain't worth a good cartridge. He 's such a contemptible 
jackass ! ' 

The words were rude ; but I confess, at the moment, I 
heard them with pleasure. 

Then, to my immense surprise, he opened the door once 
more, with a cunning look on his face, and walked quietly 
upstairs. I fell, unmanned, into my easy-chair, quivering 
all over with nervous agitation. There was a minute's 
pause. At the end of that time, a loud report shook the 
room I sat in. It was followed at ten seconds' interval by 
another. Next instant, the housemaid rushed down with a 
face of terror. ' Oh, come up, sir,' she cried. ' There 's 
terrible things happening ! Mr. Vernon's shot himself, and 
he 's killed the missus ! ' 

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THE CHURCHWARDEN^S BROTHER 

I went up to the bedroom. The wife was on the hearth- 
rug, shot lightly through the body. The wretched man 
himself lay moaning on the bed, blood streaming from his 
breast, and his eyes half open. As he saw me, he smiled 
through his pain and flung up one hand. ' Norcott was 
right,' he said slowly. ' I was always a deal a worse fellow 
than he was. But I 've come to myself now, and I hope 
I 've killed her.' 

He was wrong in that hope. His wife recovered. The 
jury very rightly returned it as temporary insanity. Indeed, 
Vernon's strange and unbecoming language to myself just 
before his death clearly showed the fact that reason had 
been deposed from her seat for the time being. I have 
always felt that his brother's terrible end must have preyed 
upon a once estimable parishioner's mind so much that he 
was scarcely responsible at the time for his dreadful actions, 
which providentially had no such evil results for my own life 
and limbs as I feared at the moment of his worst delirium. 
His estate was proved at seventy odd thousand pounds, and 
his widow has since married a most respectable solicitor. 



344 



TAILPIECE 
A MATTER OF STANDPOINT 



A MATTER OF STANDPOINT 

' Anything going to-day, comrade ? ' hungry-looking Jules 
asked of hungry -looking Hector, just outside the grounds of 
the Hotel Beau-Rivage. 

' Pas de chance,' hungry-looking Hector responded, with a 
shake of his shaggy head. 'No work since a fortnight. It 
is, look you, these bourgeois ! ' 

But the word bourgeois did not mean to those unkempt 
and starveling Proven9aux at all the same thing that the 
English journalist has made it mean to the English reader. 
To you, dear gentlemen, it implies practically an underbred 
person, whose tastes are less noble and exalted than your 
own ; to Jules and Hector, it connoted rather a man in 
a black coat — good, bad, or indiiferent : a person not a 
workman, a liclie, an eat-all, a member of the capitalist or 
idle classes. Sons of the southern proletariat themselves, 
born to a slender and precarious diet of garlic and olives, 
with a substratum of sour bread, and an occasional rinsing of 
petit vin bleu, they made no petty discrimination of trade or 
profession, no invidious distinction of banker or brewer, 
merchant or manufacturer, doctor or advocate, poet or 
painter. If you wore a blue blouse or a coarse grey shirt 
with a crimson sash, you were an otivrier and a brother ; if 
you wore a black coat and a starched white collar, you were 
a sacre bou?geois, and an enemy of humanity. 'Tis a simple 
creed, with much to recommend it. It may occasionally go 
wrong — all creeds are fallible — but in the main it answers to 
a genuine distinction of life and function — from the point 

347 



A MATTER OF STANDPOINT 

of view of starveling Jules and starveling Hector, hien 
entendu ! 

' What hast thou eaten to-day ? ' hungry Jules inquired, 
with a keen glance from under his black penthouse eye- 
brows. His sharp beady eyes were naturally deep-set, but 
a long course of starvation had made them still further 
recede into dim recesses of darkling shadow. 

Hungry Hector shrugged his shoulders — or rather his 
shoulder-bones. ' What would you have .'' ' he answered, 
with the philosophy of hunger. ' Like this, like that ! 
Here a crust, there a cabbage-stalk ! As the unemployed 
live. 'Tis not a banquet, co?iveno?is.' 

Hungry Jules seized him energetically by the ulna — only 
anatomical language can fairly describe the various salient 
portions of those two thinly-draped skeletons. ' Look in 
there ! ' he cried hoarsely, pointing through the window. 
' They feast, those bourgeois ! They have eaten already soup, 
and fish, and calves' feet in bechamel; and now the men in 
the white chokers are offering them roast lamb. C'est trop 
fort, n'est-ce pas, camarade ? ' 

Hungry Hector leaned forward and inspected the diners 
with glistening eyes that half started from his head. Some 
of the pampered children of luxury actually turned up their 
noses at hot roast lamb ! ' Decidement, c'est trop fort,' he 
answered, horrified. His righteous indignation was fast rising 
to boiling-point. 

Inside, at the table, young Doctor Hughes, of London, 
that amiable consumptive, who had worn himself to death 
in the underpaid service of the poor of Whitechapel, was 
sitting with his wife, toying idly with the food on the plate 
before him. Minna's eyes were fixed upon him. ' Don't 
you think, dear,' she whispered, ' you could eat just a 
mouthful or two of this nice roast lamb ? Do try ! It 's 
so good for you.' 
34>S 



A MATTER OF STANDPOINT 

Trevor Hughes turned it over with a listless fork, and 
inspected it. 'I never can eat the Riviera lamb,' he an- 
swered, stifling a sigh. ' It's killed too young ; and it 's so 
lean and skinny.' 

' But you ate no soup, and you ate no fish,' Minna 
murmured, with tears in her eyes. She saw only too plainly 
that his appetite was failing. 

'The soup was cold and greasy,' Trevor explained, not 
peevishly, but in an apologetic voice; 'and the fish was 
loup. I cannot eat hup. You know it disagrees with me.' 

Minna knew it did— and trembled. For day by day 
more and more things disagreed with him. She began 
to wonder with a tremulous fear what she could give him to 
live upon. 

'If only we could get away to Algiers,' she murmured 
low, ' you might recover your appetite. But here, on the 
Riviera, none of the food seems to suit you.' 

' I 'm afraid not,' Trevor answered. And he knew too 
well why. He had seen more than enough of such cases 
in Whitechapel. 

Jules seized Hector's arm again. 'And see,' he cried. 
' See ! Those lackeys bring in something else to offer 
them! Sacred name of a dog, I swear to you, it is 
chicken ! ' 

' Do these people eat chicken every day > ' Hector asked, 
half beside himself with astonishment, his lantern jaws 
dropping rapidly as his hungry mouth watered. 

' Do they eat chicken every day ? Mafoi, yes, they do : 
unless in its place they eat duck or partridge. Figure to 
yourself, partridge ! I have watched them here for a week, 
and you will not believe such shameful luxury — the luxe 
efrene des bourgeois! Every evening that goes they sit 
down to the same feast— soup, fish, an entree, a joint, a roll 
—and sweets— and dessert. Mon dieu, c'est effruTjant ! ' 

349 



A MATTER OF STANDPOINT 

Hector grasped his short knife. Poverty had not been 
able to deprive him of that. ' C'est pas mal,' he exclaimed 
again. ' But they shall pay for it, those mouths there ! 
Bloodsuckers that drink up the life-blood of the people. 
And 7ve dine on cabbage-stalks ! I swear to you, they shall 
pay for it ! ' 

' What do you mean .'' ' hungry Jules exclaimed, seizing 
his ulna once more with a certain greedy and convulsive 
eagerness. 

Hector opened the knife stealthily, a strange gleam in 
his eye. * The first bourgeois who leaves the room ! ' he 
whispered between his set teeth, holding it up, blade 
downward, and striking the air with a vicious thrust. ' They 
are all of them equally culpable. Le premier venu, c'est 
compris ? ' 

Minna looked at her husband tenderly. ' A little bit of 
chicken, darling ? ' she murmured low. ' I 'm sure you can 
eat just a mouthful off the wing. Such nice white meat ! 
Do let me give you some.' 

Trevor shook his head with a sad smile. ' No, no, dear,' 
he answered with a weary, dreary look. ' I couldn't touch 
a mouthful. You know I detest the tabic d'hote poulet.' 

' You 're not going .'' ' she cried, seeing him rise with the 
weary, dreary look still deepening on his face. 

' Yes,' he answered. ' The room 's so hot. I shall stroll 
out into the garden. It 's nice and cool there, and the air 
seems to do me more good than anything.' 

* Then I shall go with you,' Minna cried, and rose from 
the table to accompany her husband. 

' Tiens, Hector,' Jules whispered, as husband and wife 
emerged from the hotel door. Vois-tu ? nn bourgeois ! ' 

A sudden blind rush. A knife gleaming in the air. A 
scream of horror from Minna. A gurgle of blood ; a red 
stream ; a sigh. And the tragedy was complete. There 
350 



A MATTER OF STANDPOINT 

was one bourgeois the less alive on earth ; and one friend of 
humanity stood back, with gnashed teeth, awaiting arrest 
by the guests and the concierge. 

' A horrible crime ! ' you say. Yes, no doubt, a horrible 
crime — from the ethical side, a crime of the first magnitude. 
But from the psychological side, which is how human 
actions rather strike me, a regrettable result of incompati- 
bility in the matter of standpoint. Those two saw things 
differently — no more than that. If each could have seen 
with the other's eyes — well, most crimes are so, and most 
blunders also. 



351 



Printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to Her Majesty 
at the Edinburgh University Press